Hedningarna – Kult (Silence Records SRSCD-4771, 2016)
Throughout the years, Swedish band Hedningarna taped a lot of great material during recording sessions that never made it to an album. Kult is a collection of previously unreleased material, spanning two decades, 1992 and 2006. The 20 songs were mixed by producer Dag Lundqvist.
Hedningarna became a sensation in the 1990s with its fantastic mix of Nordic folk and beautiful Finnish female runic singing. The group attracted tens of thousands of followers beyond Scandinavia, including Spain, far to the south.
The Hedningarna lineup changed throughout the years and the CD booklet helps the listener figure out who was around at a given time. Two members remained as the essence of Hedningarna throughout all these years, multi-instrumentalists Anders Norudde and Hållbus Totte Mattsson.
On Kult you’ll listen to a wide-range of traditional acoustic instruments and vocals. The song mix is remarkable, featuring irresistible up-tempo pieces as well as mesmeric songs.
Hedningarna has influenced numerous folk musicians in Scandinavia and beyond and you can see why on Kult.
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.