Hedningarna’s world is a place where primitive, energetic folk music collides with sampling and programming, developing a new direction. Hedningarna, “the heathens” in English, propel ancient Nordic music into the modern era paying no attention to the rules of the road.
At the helm of Hedningarna are the three founding members of the band, Anders Norudde, Hållbus Totte Mattsson, and Björn Tollin, who started the band in 1987. All three were involved with rock and had worked on world music projects, but they returned home to Nordic music.
In 1987, Hedningarna played together for the first time. Totte recalled: “When we joined together at the beginning Anders had his drone instruments, Björn had his tambourine and I had my lute, and, like an accident, we started to play together and these instruments, they loved each other…We’re not interested in trying to be authentic or historical; we don’t mind how it was done years ago, but we mind what wonderful instruments they had then.” He added: “Because we know the tradition, we write a lot of new stuff that is based on traditional ideas, scales, modes, rhythms and so on.”
Anders continued: “We seek folk music with harsh melodies, twisted rhythms and percussive bass notes, the kind that was played in a lonely glade somewhere in the northern parts hundreds of years ago. No other music reaches so far down to our collective roots. There is so much power in the old music.”
When the core trio, Anders Norudde, Hållbus Totte Mattsson, and Björn Tollin, heard female Finnish voices drifting through the halls of the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Hedningarna invited Sanna Kurki-Suonio and Tellu Paulasto to join the band. Both singers later left the band to pursue other projects.
In 1999, Hedningarna added Magnus Stinnerbom on octave violin to their lineup. Magnus had his own band, Harv.
Through all the modern technology, Hedningarna remains true to the polska, an addictive three-beat rhythm unique to Sweden; a derivation of a dance from elsewhere in Europe in the 18th century. The polska is rhythmically complex and has many regional variations both musically and in dance forms. In modern day terms, the polska was the party music of that time, Anders explained: “People danced themselves into ecstasy to these compelling rhythms. This was not tolerated at all. The religious ‘revival’ movement killed much of the Swedish folk music tradition. The fiddle was regarded as the devil’s instrument and was burned. As industrialization crowded out village life, this form of music nearly died out completely. The folk music that survived was ‘refined’ and ‘respectable’ not sweaty and ecstatic.”
The lineup in 2016 included Hållbus Totte Mattson, Anders Norudde (formerly known as Anders Stake) and Samuel Andersson.
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.