People sometimes ask me what kind of music I listen to. I tend to be pretty eclectic, with tastes ranging from tribal drumming to Norwegian power metal covers of pop songs. However, for getting in touch with my ancestors I prefer folk music. A few of my favorite groups are Eivør, Frifot, Garmarna, Gjallarhorn, Hedningarna, Loituma, Ranarim, Triakel, Värttinä, and Wimme.
Of these, Garmarna and Hedningarna tend to apply the most progressive approach to Folk. The rest tend to be use reasonably traditional arrangements, although Wimme sometimes shakes up his Joik with a modern beat.
Here’s a quick tour of some of my favorite songs by these artists.
I’ve already dedicated an entire blog post to translating Garmarna’s En Gång Ska Han Gråta, which may be my favorite of all their work. A close second would be the progressive groove they are rocking in Gamen and Klevabergselden. For beautifully haunting songs, you might try Den Bortsålda, about a girl whose father sells her away, and whose brother is unwilling to ransom her back. The song is worth listening to solely for Emma Härdelin’s Kulning technique. If you prefer delicate work, you might try Domschottis, and if an almost pop feel is more to your liking, I recommend Euchari. I really could go on about this band all day, but I’m going to stop here.
Eivør’s Trollabundin is visceral and haunting, especially with the bebox-style hissing/grunting she uses to make her troll sounds. Her work meanders between traditional, progressive and modern folk, but I think this is perhaps the single best example of her versatility.
Hedningarna demonstrates a lovely fusion of progressive beats and traditional instruments with Räven.
No survey of Gjallarhorn would be complete without the joyful Suvetar and the stirring Bergfäst and Hjaðningarima. The very ethereal sound of their adaptation of a Swedish Psalm is covered in depth with translation in my prior post.
Finnish Loituma’s claim to fame is Levan Polkka, a sung from the perspective of a young suitor who is intent on taking a girl to a festival dance, and isn’t afraid to inform her parents that they are, in fact, going, and no one can stop them. The song was sampled for the infamous spinning leek Orihime meme.
Triakel features only Garmarna’s vocalist and two of the gentlemen from Hoven Droven. They perform only traditional arrangments. I think my favorite is probably Längmasaguten, but I Youtube seems to lack it. Enjoy Veit instead.
Finnish Värtinnä has a long history, but I like their more recent work best. They can do mirthful well, but I find the rhythmic chanting, progressive percussion, and slightly spooky atmosphere in Riena to really showcase their sound. For a deliciously haunting treat, try Äijö.
You really cannot discuss Scandinavian folk music without including Joik, and Wimme performs this style almost exclusively. Joik is rhythmic tribal chanting, usually set to drums and sometimes using a sparse set of instruments to round out the sound. In Bamboo Honey, Wimme shows us a somewhat contemporary sound. Joik of the Wind is a more traditional treatment, by Sofia Jannok. Or here’s a whole playlist.
I hope you enjoyed this meandering through the styles.