Beneath the ice sheet beyond Mo i Rana in Nordland lies what is the entrance to Northern Europe’s longest water-filled cave. Saxophonist and jazz musician Håkon Skog Erlandsen floats on icy water.
He just came out of another spectacular dive.
– My lips are frozen, but they worked fine a few hours ago. It is possible to make things worse than this, chuckled Håkon Skog Erlandsen.
He loves a challenge and is now looking for what will be a unique and spectacular sight deep in the cave.
– I am without a doubt an “extremist” and this is no exception. This project is really just burning gasoline. “It stems from curiosity and I’m constantly wondering what’s around the next corner,” he said.
– It’s about visualizing and achieving. It’s a great curiosity that drives me, says the musician.
Raw nature experience
Pluragrotta outside Mo i Rana in Nordland is a nearly three kilometer underground system that runs through Plurdalen. One of the caves here is over 130 meters deep. Most cave systems are filled with water.
The water is crystal clear and with beautiful marble corridors, this is more than enough to attract divers from all over the world.
– This is one of the roughest nature experiences you can get in the whole world, that’s my opinion. There is a marble formation that extends two kilometers into the rock. You float effortlessly and this is your closest distance in space, says Ina Santala Jordbru, general manager of Visit Plura.
It was precisely the spectacular pursuits and challenges that lured musicians from Mo i Rana to undertake a truly unique project 500 meters into the mountains.
– I was very lucky to be born in one of the biggest playgrounds in the world and I really wanted to experience all of this, but the music was as clear as I wanted to convey to the whole world, said Skog Erlandsen.
Concert on Mount Everest
He was always adventurous.
In 2019, the musician was on the summit of Mount Everest where his goal was the world’s first saxophone concert at an altitude of 8848 meters. It was a brief and chilly experience at 29 degrees.
– Mount Everest is fierce, but it will be just as raw. It is important to include art in its most spectacular areas and the ambition is to spread this to people around the world, he said.
– This will be the first concert in the world under a closed water trap, I hope, the musician said.
Concerts will be arranged in connection with Bod becoming the European Capital of Culture in 2024.
– The concert isn’t until 2024, but it’s the first step in a big planning phase. It will be professional on an international level. Here we are talking about filling the potential and we will use the future, among other things, to lay cables in caves so that we can flow them out into the world. It was the start of a sick, big and fat event, said Skog Erlandsen.
Plans for such a concert have been around for a long time.
– I think this has been planned for three years. Finally we contacted Bodø 2024, the European Capital of Culture and collaborated with them. There will probably be more concerts if this is a success, said Bjørn Bonsaksen, project manager at the Smeltedigelen music festival.
Safety comes first
He is full of praise for a unique project.
– Following people full of positivity and courage is absolutely fantastic, says Bjørn Bonsaksen.
– Will this be a concert with a small audience?
– We have a realistic goal of bringing 50-60 divers into the cave. The biggest audience will be outside, says Håkon Skog Erlandsen.
– This has never been done in the world before as far as we can see, and therefore we are also working on plans to make a documentary about the project, said Bjørn Bonsaksen, project manager at the Smeltedigelen music festival.
The most important thing during the whole project is safety.
In 2014, two Finnish cave divers lost their lives inside part of a cave system in Plura.
– Safety is paramount and we have worked with this for years to minimize risks. We work closely with the police and TNI, among others, Squadron 330. There are more than fifteen hundred dives a year and only once in 2014 was there a fatal accident here, said Ina Santala Jordbru, general manager of Visit Plura.
– Gotta stay calm
– There is a low threshold for canceling a dive if it is deemed unpleasant. It’s a small, congested environment where the point is to take care of each other. If you don’t, it won’t go well, he said.
Håkon Skog Erlandsen is also concerned about safety.
– I started diving in 2019 and my goal is to be a wedding saxophonist for those who want to get married in a cave. “I’ve been active diving for three years and have been diving several hundred times,” said the musician.
– When I first do something, I do it really hard. As for me, I’ve never had any worries even though there are some risks with it. I’ve worked a lot with the soul and resetting you when you do something spectacular, he says.
Keeping your head cool is important when you are in a narrow cave filled with water.
– You have to stay proven all the time and you have to avoid panic. “I’ve been to a lot of places around the world where there have been fatal accidents, but you can’t focus on that now that you’re in places like that,” he said.
Erlandsen and team have just completed the first test inside the so-called Chapel and which is the final stop for the unique concert arena 500 meters into the mountains.
– You have a very special natural sound there and it will be a spectacular experience. When you sit there completely still and just hear the water dripping onto the surface, yes it’s absolutely indescribable, says Erlandsen.
There are still a few years of planning until Bod becomes the European Capital of Culture in 2024.
One of the big challenges is getting more musicians to participate in the actual concert in the cave.
– It will take a little while to enter. It’s not just about wearing a wetsuit to go. We may very few dream of playing a concert here and here is the planning.
It’s easier to find musicians who can be cave divers, than cave divers who can become musicians, he chuckled.
– So far I’ve only found one, but then again he’s very good. Then at least there is another deed in this world, so if nothing else it will be a sickly duo, said Håkon Erlandsen enthusiastically.
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