Music of Sweden

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Sweden has a long history of folk musics, including polka, schottis, waltz, polska and mazurka. The accordion, clarinet, fiddle and nyckelharpa are among the most common Swedish folk instruments. In the 1960s, Swedish youth sparked a roots revival in Swedish folk culture. Many joined spelmanslag (folk musicians' clubs) and performed on mainstream radio and TV. They focused on instrumental polska music, with vocals only becoming more prominent in the 1990s.

Swedish music has also included more modern and pop influences. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Scandinavian death metal bands became very popular among the heavy metal community nationwide, with important centers in Stockholm and Gothenburg. Swedish pop bands like ABBA, Ace of Base and The Cardigans have had international success, as also more recently the rock band The Hives. Swedish singers Meja, Robyn and Emilia have all enjoyed success abroad.

Sweden has been called the third biggest exporter of music in the world, after USA and UK respectively. Ironically ABBA was a much bigger success abroad than in Sweden and for example the largely unknown artist DeDe was so big in Japan in the late 1990s that she was made into a doll. Sweden also historically dominate the Scandinavian music scene, with Denmark and Norway listening to music in Swedish rather than the other way around.


Folk songs

Swedish folk song is dominated by ballads and kulning; the latter was originally used as a cow-herding call and is traditionally sung by women, including modern virtuoso Lena Willemark. Ballad stories descend from skillingtryck printed songs from the 19th century. Modern bands like Folk och Rackare, Hedningarna and Garmarna incorporated folk song intro their repertoire.

Folk instruments

The fiddle is perhaps the most characteristic instrument of the Swedish folk tradition. It had arrived by the 17th century, and became widespread until 19th century religious fundamentalism preached that most forms of music were sinful and ungodly. Despite the oppression, several fiddlers achieved a reputation for their virtuosity, including Jämtland's Lapp-Nils, Bingsjö's Pekkos Per and Malung's Lejsme-Per Larsson. None of these musicians were ever recorded; the first major fiddler to be recorded was Hjort Anders Olsson. Other early fiddlers of the 20th century included Nils Agenmark and Päkkos Gustaf.

The nyckelharpa is similar to both a fiddle and a hurdy-gurdy, and is known from Sweden since at least 1350, when it was carved on a gate in a church in Gtaland. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the nyckelharpa was known throughout Sweden, Denmark and in Uppland. The latter has long been a stronghold for nyckelharpa music, including through the 60s revival, which drew on musicians like Byss-Calle from Älvkarleby. The instrument played at this time was not the same as today; August Bohlin and Eric Sahlström made changes to the instrument that made it a chromatic and straight, more violin-like instrument. In spite of these innovations, the nyckleharpa's popularity declined until the 1960s roots revival. The nyckelharpa was a prominent part of several revival groups later in the century, especially Väsen and Hedningarna.

The säckpipa, a form of bagpipes, has been part of a long-running folk tradition, passed down orally until the death of Gudmunds Nils Larsson in 1949. Later revivalists like Per Gudmundson added a tuning slide and revitalized the instrument.

Accordions and harmonicas were an integral part of Swedish folk music at the beginning of the 20th century, when it contributed to the gammeldans genre. The most famous Swedish accordionist is undoubtedly Kalle Jularbo, who was famous throughout the early 20th century. Later, the accordion was not well-received within the roots revival, until the very end of the 1970s.

Roots revival

In the 1960s, Swedish jazz musicians like Jan Johansson used folk influences in their work, resulting in an early 1970s series of music festivals in Stockholm. The Swedish Music Movement became a popular trend towards jazz- and rock-oriented folk music, including many performers who brought a new vitality to Swedish folk.

Progressive and jazz-rock music

Sweden is also known in some circles for its progressive and jazz-rock musicians, particularly for virtuoso-led acts like Samla Mammas Manna, Kultivator and Anglagard.

Also, Sweden is also considered the birthplace of Progressive Metal.

Hip Hop

Today various styles of what is often labeled as Afro-American music is very popular in Sweden. Originally mainly among immigrant kids but also, increasingly, among ethnic Swedes.

While soul has been around for a long time in Sweden hip hop is a more recent addition, emerging in the mid nineties when the Eurodisco likes of Rob'n'Raz and Basic Element decreased in popularity. The Latin Kings were the first representatives of their genre to become famous nation-wide and they are still popular, mainly due to their designation to the Stockholm suburbs that shaped them and many of their fans. The group rap in Swedish with much of the "shobre" slang that is typical for immigrant kids of Sweden, nationwide. The Latin Kings were followed by Blacknuss Allstars and Infinite Mass, rapping in English, and in 1996, when hip hop got it's big break in Sweden, by Petter. Petter was also from the Stockholm suburbs and with him came an array of new artists to the genre. Petter got himself a crew, including Thomas Rusiak, and worked with R'n'B singer's like Robyn. Feven, originally from Eritrea, became the first woman to reach fame in the genre and artists like Loop Troop and Advance Patrol represent other parts of Sweden.

Today Timbuktu probably the most prominent rapper in Sweden. He is from the deep south, Scania and raps with the local accent of his native Lund. Having released four albums he has firmly established himself as a left-wing rapper, borrowing influences from Progressive music, American R'n'B and music from West-Africa and Jamaica. Being of mixed race he also has more credibility to the immigrant kids than e.g. Petter (at least officially an ethnic Swede), and his concerts usually sell out to the very last ticket.

Punk rock

The most prominent and important Swedish punk rock band is Ebba Grn (1977-1982) headed by Joakim Thstrm.

See also: Ume hardcore

See also

External links

  • Joseph Martin Kraus ( A page dedicated to Joseph Martin Kraus (1756-1792) - "Swedish Mozart", with a list of further tnlist

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