Swedish Ethno Groove

i-84c162970a1004e95c34221e7c38d4dd-hippjokk.jpg

I’m a big fan of Swedish-Finnish ethno band Hedningarna (“the Pagans”). Centred around three musicians working with a series of very fine singers, the band released five albums from 1989 to 1999. Their method was to go for the most primitive acoustic instruments known to Swedish ethnic music and plug them into various exotic electronics, producing a sound heavily influenced by Jimi Hendrix yet unmistakeably rural and Scandinavian. Most aficionados count the second and third albums (Kaksi and Trä), where two amazing Finnish traditional female singers dominate the sound, as the band’s creative peak. But I really like the fourth one too.

1997′s Hippjokk is the only Hedningarna album without any female vocals. The songs are either instrumentals or sung by men, including Sami guest vocalist Wimme Sarri who puts in some really badass yoik. Another thing that really sets this disc apart is its focus on groove, repetitive string figures, harvandet as the band put it in interviews. It’s not really riffing, more basic, more monotonous. And hugely groovy.

One funny and rocking track on the fourth Hedningarna disc is “Drafur och Gildur”, a song they picked up from live roleplayer darlings Sorkar & Strängar. This is a testosterone-drenched song telling a gory tale of woodland trolls who mess with the wrong pair of dwarves. I translate from the Swedish original:

Drafur and Gildur
By Martin Ahlman

Heavy-booted footsteps ring
Dwarven singing rides the wind
Down into a little clearing
Where wily trolls are waiting

Trolls have set an ambush here
To test the mettle of the dwarves
Drafur enters the woods
Keeping his axe handy

The trolls have waited long enough
Sneaking out from the forest eaves
Drafur stands listening
The birds are strangely quiet

Suddenly roaring and screeching
Trolls come running from the woods
Drafur muses to himself
“Time for some axercise!”

The first troll is hoping
To bash Drafur’s legs to pulp
This ambition is thwarted
When his head takes leave of his neck

More and more trolls appear
Drafur wishes they would just go away
Trolls have tiny brains
But there are too many of them

Suddenly the trolls’ luck turns
And hope springs in Drafur’s heart
Through a scarlet mist
He spies Gildur kicking troll ass

Trolls in hordes advance
Drafur and Gildur join forces
Back to back the dwarves
Paint the ground with blood of trolls

Drafur, grinning like a wolf
Swings his double axe
Stiff-necked trolls he chops
Dispatching them unfalteringly

The wrath of the dwarves has awakened
Any troll in range gets its skull cracked open
They start backing away
As Gildur beheads the stragglers

Few trolls are left now
Soon the dwarves will get some rest
Their blood boiling
They slay the last attacker

If you haven’t understood our song
Let us sing it once again:
The best fighters around
Are dwarves, no doubt about it

[More blog entries about , , , , , ; , , , .]

Comments

  1. #1 Tasha
    February 11, 2008

    I love this album. Haven’t heard any of the others… I should probably fix that. Seems to me, though, that on this version of “Drafur och Gildur”, they don’t sing the last verse (I had to listen along just now while trying to read the Swedish lyrics). Is there another version out there where they do?

  2. #2 Martin R
    February 11, 2008

    Well done! Hedningarna do omit the last verse. I don’t know of any other version of theirs than the album one, but Sorkar & Stršngar have of course recorded it themselves.

    Hedningarna also modified verse 3: they mention an owl instead of general birdsong, which introduces the idea that the ambush takes place at night. This is reasonable since trolls generally don’t like sunlight much.

  3. #3 Bob O'H
    February 11, 2008

    (Kaksi and Trš),
    Damn – I’ve only just seen the pun on Trš (for those who don’t know, kaksi means “two” in Finnish). It’s a great album, I agree.

    Bob

  4. #4 Martin R
    February 11, 2008

    Hippjokk should definitely have been named Fura. (-;

    Kaksi is probably also intended as a pun on Swedish kaxig, “uppity”.

  5. #5 keiths
    February 11, 2008

    Drafur muses to himself

    “Time for some axercise!”

    I don’t speak Swedish, so I’m curious — is that pun present in the original, or is it a translator’s flourish?

    Either way, nice touch.

  6. #6 Martin R
    February 11, 2008

    Thanks! The original has a funny and very strained rhyme there, so I felt I had to put something similar in. As for Gildur kicking troll ass, that is pretty much the sense and stylistic flavour of the Swedish expression in that spot.

  7. #7 SŠvon
    February 11, 2008

    This is really awful. In the old Scandinavian myths the trolls and the dwarfs are the same…

  8. #8 Moses
    February 11, 2008

    Great stuff. Thanks for the post.

  9. #9 Martin R
    February 11, 2008

    No, dwarves belong to Viking Period mythology and trolls to a much later stratum of folklore. But the song lyrics are inspired by tolkienesque 20th-century fantasy literature.

  10. #10 c
    February 11, 2008

    hordes.

    Is there a chorus? Should we write one?

  11. #11 Martin R
    February 11, 2008

    Whoops, thanks!

    There’s no chorus, only a spaced-out bagpipe solo.

  12. #12 October Mermaid
    February 11, 2008

    “Time for some axercise!”

    Ahahaha, that is awesome.

  13. #13 Bride of Shrek
    February 11, 2008

    Having just put together virtually an entire house of Ikea flat packed furniture this last week I’m not too keen on the Swedes at the moment.

  14. #14 Bride of Shrek
    February 11, 2008

    Though that’s some very cool lyrics there

  15. #15 Barn Owl
    February 11, 2008

    But the song lyrics are inspired by tolkienesque 20th-century fantasy literature.

    And Tolkien used Norse dwarf names for his own Dwarves:

    Bifurr (“trembler”)
    Bomburr (“tubby”)
    D√°inn (“dead”)
    Durinn (“sleepy”)
    Dori (“borer”)
    Dvalinn (“dawdler”)
    Fili (“file”)
    etc.

    Recycling is good! ;-)

  16. #16 kevin z
    February 11, 2008

    My wife and I are huge fans of Hedningarna, Gjallarhorn and Garmana. I’ve been saving up for a Nyckelharpa myself. Thanks for posting on such an awesome band and fantastic album!

  17. #17 Bo Johansson
    February 12, 2008

    This is really awful. In the old Scandinavian myths the trolls and the dwarfs are the same…

    Says who?

  18. #18 SÔŅĹvon
    February 13, 2008

    Stuff deleted at Savon’s request

    This does not mean that IÔŅĹm not fond of Hedningarna. I like their music a lot.

  19. #19 Robert Carnegie
    February 13, 2008

    “I see you baby,
    Kicking troll ass!
    Kicking troll ass!
    Kicking troll ass!
    I see you shorty,
    Kicking troll ass!
    Kicking troll ass!
    Kicking troll ass!
    Hi ho, mothergriever!”

  20. #20 Smilodon
    February 13, 2008

    I think this is my favorite Hedningarna CD.

    But, hazy memory here, isn’t the first Hedingarna record without any vocals? I’d go look for it but it’s buried somewhere in the basement.

  21. #21 Martin R
    February 13, 2008

    You may very well be right, I don’t own that disc myself.

  22. #22 Smilodon
    February 14, 2008

    Martin R — If you are a big fan of Hippjokk, you probably won’t like it too much. It sounds fairly traditional (I realize it may not actually be fairly traditional), and almost wan, in comparison with Kaksi!, Trš, and Hippjokk. I bought it after all their other records had appeared, and I was disappointed. However, once I find it, I will listen to it again.

  23. #23 Martin R
    February 14, 2008

    I remember reading a record review where the guy said that Hedningarna started out as a standard “sinewy” (!) folk band but blossomed into something truly wonderful with the second album.

  24. #24 Jorg
    June 24, 2009

    Hm, it appears that I have missed this post originally. Oh well: Martin, when my family and I make it out to Stockholm, we simply must all have a drink together, hopefully with live music as abackdrop. Your taste in music and branches of human knowledge is absolutely admirable, even if I say so.

    And Hedningarna had a compilation out in USA and Japan at least, after Tr√§ but before Hippjokk. It was called Fire, of course…

    And yes, the first album is vocal-less and largely acoustic.

  25. #25 Martin R
    June 25, 2009

    Thanks man, it would be fun to meet!

  26. #26 Phillip Jones
    November 10, 2011

    Many thanks for the excellent translation. I’ve listened to the song hundreds of times, often stomping around a fire pit. Understanding the lyrics only adds to my enjoyment.

The site is undergoing maintenance presently. Commenting has been disabled. Please check back later!