Norrland and Urkult, part 2

Continued from the post ‘Norrland and Urkult, part 1’

This was the playground for the young and the young at heart… hammocks and rope swings and giant wooden ship all included.

And this was the stage before the opening ceremony, which included music and fire dancing. Not to mention a lot of r-rolling and other slam-poetic treatments of the Swedish language.

Here are the acts I liked best from the festival:

Malin Foxdal

Malin Foxdal makes Dalarna sound like Sweden’s Appalachia. Meaning: this lady from Dalarna translates American folk-style music (mostly the songs of the Great Gillian Welch) into Swedish.

I saw her perform in a church with a band consisting of a Bass, a fiddle, a mandolin, and a guitar. On the guitar was Esbjörn Hazelius, who often plays with one of my favorite Swedish musicians, Sofia Karlsson (who unfortunately wasn’t at the festival), and the band, as a whole, was quite suberb. Malin has quite the voice, ranging from very rich deep tones to lofty, airy notes—and doing Welch’s songs the justice they deserve.

Theresa Andersson

My fellow American! Theresa Andersson is from New Orleans, but has at least one parent from Gotland (island off the East coast of Sweden). One of my interests in seeing her concert was to check out what her accent in Swedish was like — thinking that Gotlandska and American would be an interesting combination. Turns out, her Swedish was really good, but still I could hear places where she made similar differences in pronunciation to the ones that I always have. It made me feel like I had a friend : )

Anyway, her performance, was simply put, something else. I am not sure if I have ever seen a musician utilize recording so much or so masterfully as Theresa. Basically she would start off a song with a simple sound: a beat, a simple sung melody, a few note on the violin, a few chords on the guitar… and that simple wound would be recorded and played back over and over. As the song progressed, she would add more and more sounds, everything building on the sound before in a rhythmically interesting way.

Chissko Systems

Senegalese folk music is not something I expected to here in the middle of a forest somewhere in Northern Sweden. But I am sure glad I did.

Rocking the Kora harp and some kinda drums made outta a large vegetable, the musicians radiated an unbelievable pure form of joy, made even more tangible by the fact that some of the musicians’ friends and family members hopped up on stage out of the audience to dance along.


I am just gonna say, naming your band after your area code seems like one heck of a redneck thing to do.

Nevertheless, these guys where great. Three middle-age men from Västerbotten, they put a very subtle modern spin on Norrlandsk folk music with the inclusion of an electric guitar into the traditional instrumental line up, all while maintaining the folk-dance-able quality of the music.

Long live Swedish rednecks.

Mari Boine

One of the world’s most prominent Modern Sami musicians (read: one of the world’s only). She incoporates the joik (see previous Urkult post) into music that has elements of pop, jazz, rock, and, um…. Enya (if that can be considered a musical style). In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that  I spent most of the concert sitting by one of the bonfires trying to stay awake. Later on, I did listen again to one of her CDs and read english translations of her Sami lyrics, which actually were quite beautiful.

Svarta Sagor (Black Tales)

This group of young artists draws from the traditions of bard from the days of yore—telling stories accompanied by music. Performing in the darkened Näsåker school theater, Svarta Sagor’s goal is to retell classic, happy-ending fairytales in a dark and disturbing way.

It often happens that I am focusing too hard on understanding to simply enjoy the sound of the language at the same time. However, during Svarta Sagor’s performance, the storytellers spoke so clearly—and with what I thought was a lovely northern accent (but then again anything not Skånska seems somewhat ‘northern’ to me) —that I really felt as if I was enjoying the sound of the language while understanding at the same time. Maybe it is because the performers where so talented musically and linguistically… or maybe it was because the stories were so twisted I couldn’t help but hang on every word.


Aside from the concerts, we also swam everyday. One day we even took a trip out to a waterfall to look for underwater caves. Unfortunately, we found none

On the last night of the festival, after folkdancing for a couple of hours, I stepped out of the dance lodge and realized that the lightness was already creeping up in the edges of the sky. There seemed to be almost no point in going to bed before sunrise, so I sat for a while by the lookout point and watched the dawn slowly appear over the mountains.

After watching the sunrise, I walked back by myself to the camp. The colorful ends of the Urkult festival where still fluttering around Näsåker: A woman serving the last drops of Chai Tea from a large kettle, teenagers getting in one final ride on the enormous tree swing, two men dueling violins in an empty parking lot.

It was so warm that I pulled my sleeping bag out of the tent and slept in the open air under the gradually brightening sky. Open air that is, until is started to rain. O, Sweden.


Stay tuned for the ‘Tales from the Road’ about how the heck I (barely) got back to Lund in time to catch my flight to California.



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