CD Review: Hedningarna 1989-2003

Hedningarna - Hedningarna 1989-2003
Hedningarna – Hedningarna 1989-2003

Hedningarna 1989-2003 (Northside, 2003)

Hedningarna’s newest release on NorthSide promises to take listeners back in time, far back in time, when some of our ancestors lived in tribal communities in dark forests. The music on Hedningarna’s anthology focuses on tribal rhythms, primal urges and promises a ritualistic experience to its listeners. The CD also reflects on the Nordic group’s evolution that began in 1989 when a Swedish trio of music students, Hallbus Totte Mattsson, Anders Stake and Bjorn Tollin first met at college and shared their passion for Swedish folk music.

Over the next fourteen years, various Finnish vocalists including, Sanna Kurki-Suonio, Tellu Paulasto and Anita Lehtola, Liisa Matveinen would loan their talents to Hedningarna’s recordings (Liisa Matveinen and Tellu Paulasto also appear on Wimme’s latest release, Barru).

Hedningarna (a Swedish word for heathen) eventually married traditional acoustic Swedish music with techno-beats and this rave consciousness comes through on the 1997 release, Hippjokk which includes the original trio along with guest vocalist Wimme. The instrumental tracks, Dokaren, Skane and Hoglorfen come from this period, as does, Navdi/Fasa in which Wimme contributes a yoik. And this founding trio can also be heard on one of the group’s earliest recordings, Bjornlaten off of the debut release, Hedningarna. The song itself portrays a plucked lute and dissonant fiddles foreshadowing the emergence of an innovative folk-roots movement in which this pioneering group would lead.

This anthology opens with the ritualistic Tuuli (Trä, 1994) in which vocalists Sanna Kurki-Suoni and Tellu Paulasto engage in intricate harmonies compliments of Finno-Baltic traditions and marry those harmonies to Wimme’s yoik. The vocals are then laid over a backdrop of primal beats and Nordic musical textures igniting an explosion of sounds. The new recording, Suet Ulvo, a frenzied rave follows and if that one doesn’t get listeners on their feet dancing then the Sasha remix of Kruspolska (1993) will do the trick. Tina Vieri slows things down a bit while it focuses on vocals that snake through Swedish bagpipes and power beats. Chicago, (Kaski!, 1992) possess a bluesy element played on a willow flute and lute.

Other tracks worth mentioning are Ukkonen and Neidon Laulo from the Karelia Visa CD (1999), a recording that involved a trip to the Karelian region on the other side of the Russian-Finnish border in which runo-songs were collected from elders still carrying on the tradition. The vocals are haunting and fused with willow flute, heavy drum beats and melancholic sentiments. Vattoi, another new track again features vocal harmonies compliment of the runo-song tradition.

Hedningarna, a forerunner of groups such as the Swedish band, Garmarna and Sami yoikster Wimme could
be credited for the folk-roots-techno craze that is currently being exported out of most of the Scandinavian countries. Hedningarna unwittingly cultivated the soil and planted seeds that have emerged as a new musical consciousness that revives traditional music and presents it to a younger audience. (Compliments of Cranky Crow World Music).

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