Music of Sweden

Music of Sweden

Sweden shares the tradition of Nordic folk dance music with its neighboring countries including polka, schottische, waltz, polska and mazurka. The accordion, clarinet, fiddle and nyckelharpa are among the most common Swedish folk instruments. This instrumental genre is the biggest one in Swedish traditional music. In the 1960s, Swedish youth sparked a roots revival in Swedish folk culture. Many joined Spelmanslag (folk musicians' clubs) and performed on mainstream radio and TV. They focused on instrumental polska music, with vocals and influences from other traditional genres becoming more prominent since the 1990s.

Swedish music has also included more modern and pop influences. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Scandinavian death metal bands became very popular with the international heavy metal community. Swedish pop bands like ABBA, Roxette, Army of Lovers, Ace of Base, Alcazar, A*Teens, E-Type, The Cardigans and Swedish singers Meja, Carola Häggkvist, September and Robyn have had international success. A number of bands with less emphasis on pop and rock music but still have international success have come out of the country in recent years, including The Sounds, Swedish House Mafia, Avicii, John Dahlback, Dada Life, Adrian Lux, Basshunter, The Hives, José González, Peter Bjorn and John, Miike Snow, The Knife, Refused, Millencolin, The (International) Noise Conspiracy, Sahara Hotnights, The Hellacopters, Backyard Babies, Broder Daniel, Mando Diao, The Soundtrack of Our Lives, The Ark, Kent and singer Jens Lekman.

Sweden's most classic troubadour was Carl Michael Bellman. More contemporary troubadours include Evert Taube, Cornelis Vreeswijk, Fred Åkerström, and Povel Ramel.

The Consulate General of Sweden states they are the third biggest exporter of music in the world, after the United States and the United Kingdom.[1][dead link] Another English-language source states that this is only counting per capita,[2] in which case France, Canada, Germany, Japan, Italy, Brazil, and other more populous countries would surpass Sweden when it comes to actual units exported. ABBA was a bigger success abroad than in Sweden.[citation needed] Another Swedish artist, DeDe, was so successful in Japan in the late 1990s that she inspired a collectible doll. Sweden has also historically dominated the Scandinavian music scene, with Danes and Norwegians listening to music in Swedish rather than the other way around.



By 1970, the "dansband" culture began to rise.

Folk songs

Swedish folk song is dominated by ballads and kulning; the latter was originally used as a cow-herding call and is traditionally sung by women. Ballad stories descend from skillingtryck printed songs from the 19th century. Modern bands like Folk och Rackare, Hedningarna and Garmarna incorporated folk songs into their repertoire.

Folk instruments

The fiddle is perhaps the most characteristic and original instrument of the Swedish folk tradition. It had arrived by the 17th century, and became widespread until 19th century religious fundamentalism preached that most forms of music were sinful and ungodly. Despite the oppression, several fiddlers achieved a reputation for their virtuosity, including Jämtland's Lapp-Nils, Bingsjö's Pekkos Per and Malung's Lejsme-Per Larsson. None of these musicians were ever recorded; the first major fiddler to be recorded was Hjort Anders Olsson. Other early fiddlers of the 20th century included Nils Agenmark and Päkkos Gustaf. There is an extensive traditional repertoire of fiddle tunes, in forms such as the 3/4 polska and the 4/4 gånglåt. One type fiddle peculiar to Sweden is the låtfiol, a fiddle with two sympathetic strings, similar to the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle

The nyckelharpa (keyed fiddle) is similar to both a fiddle and a hurdy-gurdy, and is known from Sweden since at least 1350, when it was carved on a gate in a church in Gotland.[3] During the 15th and 16th centuries, the nyckelharpa was known throughout Sweden, Denmark and particularly in the province of Uppland. The latter has long been a stronghold for nyckelharpa music, including through the 60s revival, which drew on musicians like Byss-Calle from Älvkarleby. The instrument played at this time was not the same as today; August Bohlin and Eric Sahlström made changes to the instrument that made it a chromatic and straight, more violin-like instrument. In spite of these innovations, the nyckelharpa's popularity declined until the 1960s roots revival. The nyckelharpa was a prominent part of several revival groups later in the century, especially Väsen and Hedningarna.

The Swedish bagpipes (säckpipa) has been part of a long-running folk tradition, passed down orally until the death of Gudmunds Nils Larsson in 1949. Later revivalists like Per Gudmundson added a tuning slide and revitalized the instrument.

Accordions and harmonicas were an integral part of Swedish folk music at the beginning of the 20th century, when it contributed to the gammeldans genre. The most famous Swedish accordionist is undoubtedly Kalle Jularbo, who was famous throughout the early 20th century. Later, the accordion was not well-received within the roots revival, until the very end of the 1970s.

Roots revival

In the 1960s, Swedish jazz musicians like Jan Johansson used folk influences in their work, resulting in an early 1970s series of music festivals in Stockholm. The Swedish Music Movement became a popular trend towards jazz- and rock-oriented folk music, including many performers who brought a new vitality to Swedish folk.

Progressive and jazz-rock music

Sweden is also known in some circles for its progressive and jazz-rock musicians, particularly for virtuoso-led acts like:


Well-known jazz names include:


Carl Michael Bellman, Wilhelm Stenhammar, Wilhelm Peterson-Berger, Hugo Alfvén, Franz Berwald, Lars-Erik Larsson, Allan Pettersson, Moses Pergament, Hilding Rosenberg and Johan Helmich Roman are among Sweden's great classical composers. The best-known opera singers are the 19th century soprano Jenny Lind and the 20th century tenor Jussi Björling, who had great success abroad as a tenor. Also sopranos Christina Nilsson, Birgit Nilsson, and tenor Nicolai Gedda, baritone Håkan Hagegård and the contemporary mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter have become known in the world of opera. Trombone virtuoso Christian Lindberg is considered by swedes to be their foremost international classical music personality. Evert Taube, Povel Ramel, Cornelis Vreeswijk, Fred Akerstrom are all popular modern troubadours, considered to be classics in Swedish music. Sweden also has a prominent choral music tradition, deriving in part from the cultural importance of the Swedish folk songs.[4]


ABBA is the best-known popular music band from Sweden, and the only one that ranks among the best-known in the world, composed of members Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, and Benny Andersson. With ABBA, Sweden entered into a new era, in which Swedish pop music gained international prominence after winning the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. They sold a total of 380 million records around the world, making them the second-most successful group ever, after The Beatles and continue to sell 2 to 3 million records a year worldwide. Sweden is one of the largest exporters of pop and rock music in the world, and is often referred as the third largest one in the world after the US and the UK, though this is difficult to verify.[5] ABBA-members Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus have been very successful in musical theatre, with their international hit Mamma Mia!, as well as Chess, and Kristina från Duvemåla, which was a huge success in Sweden. An English version is expected to hit Broadway in the near future.

Some of the most successful post-ABBA popular music artists from Sweden are Europe, Roxette, Agnes, The Wannadies, Ace of Base, Kent, Carola Häggkvist, Helena Paparizou, Army of Lovers, Neneh and Eagle-Eye Cherry, Leila K, Robyn, A*Teens, Nanne Grönvall, The Cardigans, Bodies Without Organs, Andreas Johnson, Alcazar and Play. A number of renowned rock and pop-oriented artists have come out of the country in recent years, including Eskobar, Jenny Wilson, bob hund, Clawfinger, The Sounds, Peter Bjorn and John, Miike Snow, The Hives, Hardcore Superstar, Millencolin, Sahara Hotnights, Dungen, Loney, Dear, The Hellacopters, The Ark, Infinite Mass, Mando Diao, Shout Out Louds, Looptroop, José González, Caesars. The Knife and Jens Lekman have both received significant underground acclaim in recent years. Such has been the success of music abroad that clubs specializing in Swedish music have sprung up in major cities like Berlin, Barcelona and London. Swedish chart toppers Kent are also often regarded as a pop band based on the variety of sounds found on their various albums.

Some Swedish easy listening/contemporary groups and artists who are not as well-known internationally but are recognized in Sweden include Gyllene Tider, Peter Jöback, Lill-Babs Svensson, Marie Fredriksson, Per Gessle, Ted Gärdestad, Helen Sjöholm, Lena Philipsson and Patrik Isaksson. The Swedish songwriter Max Martin, as well as his late mentor Denniz Pop, is renowned for writing songs for Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears.


Sweden has a long tradition of professional and amateur choir singing. A large percentage of the Swedes sing in amateur choirs in various styles. The choirs of Sweden are among the best in the world, with the Radio Choir, owned by Sveriges Radio (Swedish public radio) being one of the world's top professional classical choirs. Orphei Drängar (OD) is a world class male choir singing both in Swedish and other languages. The world famous choir leader Eric Ericsson started his career as chief conductor of OD in the 1950s.

Hip hop

While jazz, blues and soul have been around for a long time in Sweden, hip hop is a more recent addition. Swedish hip hop emerged in the first half of the 1980s and crossed into the mainstream a decade later.[6] Early rappers and crews were Per Cussion, Grandmaster Funk, Ice Cold Rockers and Snoopy. Artists that achieved mainstream popularity in the early 1990s include Just D, Infinite Mass and The Latin Kings. In the late 1990s there was a second breakthrough and artists like Petter, Ken Ring, Thomas Rusiak, Timbuktu and Looptroop became well-known. More recent acts worth mentioning are Promoe, Iman Russ, Max Peezay, Snook, Ison & Fille, Advance Patrol, Maskinen, Million Stylez Rebstar and Adam Tensta. Most recently, Swedish Swing hip hop jazz has become popular with the band Movits! as a frontrunner in the movement. They became popular in America after being featured on The Colbert Report.


The most successful world class rock band to come out of Sweden (and Scandinavia as a whole) has been the band called Europe. They formed in 1979, and went on to achieve huge international success during the 1980s, and continue to release successful albums over 20 years later. Europe best known with their song The Final Countdown. While rock is not as widespread in Sweden as pop is, there are some very interesting acts. Worth mentioning are The Hellacopters, who have just ended a critically acclaimed 15 year career. They are also claimed to be "Sweden's loudest export." Refused, The Hives, Millencolin, The Knockouts, The (International) Noise Conspiracy, Sahara Hotnights, Backyard Babies The Hellacopters, Dungen, Demons, Mando Diao, Sugarplum Fairy, The Soundtrack of Our Lives, The Ark, Sator, Silent Border, The Spotnicks, The Haunted, The Sounds Vains of Jenna, Shout Out Louds, Peter Bjorn and John, and Neverstore. The most popular Swedish band in Scandinavia is Kent as reflected in their high record sales and large fanbase.


During the 70's, the progg movement gained popularity. Progg, originally an abbreviation of "progressiv musik" ("progressive music"), was an umbrella term for much of the alternative music of this era. Some of those artists were progressive in a musical sense, such as Bo Hansson, Samla Mammas Manna and Träd, Gräs och Stenar. Othere were progressive mainly in a political (usually left-wing) and lyrical sense, such as Nationalteatern, Blå Tåget and Hoola Bandoola Band.

Punk rock

The most prominent and important Swedish punk rock band is Ebba Grön (1977–1982) headed by Joakim Thåström. Thåström also had two other bands called Imperiet and Peace, Love & Pitbulls but they were very pop influenced and never became anywhere near as popular as Ebba Grön. However, Thåström is still big in Sweden, now as a solo artist.

See also: Umeå hardcore

Sweden is also home to several influential emo and hardcore punk bands, such as Fireside, Last Days Of April, Satanic Surfers, Kelly 8 and landmark post-hardcore band Refused. More aggressive early hardcore punk bands include Asta kask, Mob 47, Anti Cimex, Totalitär, Homy Hogs, T.S.T, Headcleaners, and The Shitlickers. Some later influential bands of the aggressive sort are for example Disfear, Driller Killer, Wolfbrigade, Loudpipes, Warvictims, and Raised Fist.

Heavy metal and its variants

Sweden is known for a large number of heavy metal (mostly death metal, melodic death metal (aka Gothenburg metal) and black metal), as well as progressive- and power metal bands. Prominent metal acts include:

Successful progressive/psychedelic acts are for example Bo Hansson, Dungen, Anekdoten, Morte Macabre and Paatos. Sweden and neighboring Norway are also crucial centers of controversial rock music genres, including black metal, death metal, and techno-rock movements since the 1980s and 1990s[citation needed].

Electronic music

Electronic music in Sweden has been heavily influenced by the German electronic music scene. In the synth world, the band S.P.O.C.K has been active since the late 1980s. One of the most recent bands from Sweden is The Knife, as is Sally Shapiro, which is the pseudonym of producer Johan Agebjörn and a Swedish singer. More recently, the so-called Swedish House Mafia including Steve Angello, Sebastian Ingrosso, Axwell, and Eric Prydz have topped the house music charts and DJ top 10s around the world. Other similar artists of note are John Dahlbäck, Avicii, Adrian Lux and Alesso.

In the mid to late 2000s Swedish language Eurodance & Eurotrance dance music became internationally popular. Most noticeably because In 2005, Basshunter became popular with his eurotrance dance songs, based on long standing themes set in mid to late 2000s computer centric culture. Little Dragon is also Swedish.

There are many techno producers from Sweden, though they are often better known internationally than within Sweden. There is even a special Swedish subgenre of techno, the most well-known producer within this genre being Adam Beyer head of the Drumcode label with notable artist such as Cari Lekebusch, Joel Mull, Henrik B etc.

Another well-known producer duo is Minilogue which has gained lots of attention worldwide, especially with their release "Animals" in 2008.

In addition, Sweden is one of the leading countries in the world when it comes to chiptunes, or bitpop. Chip music is music made to run on old game consoles and specialized PCs, like the Amiga, Commodore 64, or Game Boy.

The Swedish music scene is led by artists like Slagsmålsklubben, Crazy Q, Coma, Covox, Dubmood, Goto80, Maktone, Random, Role Model, Lowe, Zabutom, The Knife, Zeigeist and Machinae Supremacy.

Elektronmusikstudion (EMS), formerly known as Electroacoustic Music in Sweden, is the Swedish national centre for electronic music and sound art. The research organisation started in 1964 and is based in Stockholm.


Reggae is also a part of modern Swedish music. A Swedish reggaemusician of early fame is the Scanian Peps Persson, Bob Marley has once said that there is only one white man that has reggae in his blood and it's Peps Persson. Since then, more has happened. Swedish music producers Soundism are behind Swedish reggae artists Papa Dee, Million Stylez, and Chilly & Leafy, also records with international artist such as Junior Kelly, Lady Saw, and Buju Banton.[7]

See also


  1. ^ Consulate General of Sweden "Listed as a fact in the top right."
  2. ^ Swedish Chamber of Commerce for the United Kingdom "How is Business?"
  3. ^ Ling, Jan. 1967. Nyckelharpan: Studier i ett folkligt musikinstrument p.45.
  4. ^ Durant, Colin (2003). Choral Conducting: philosophy and practice, Routledge, pp. 46–47. ISBN 0415943566: "Sweden has a strong and enviable choral singing tradition. In fact, out of a population of 8.9 million, it is estimated that between five hundred thousand and six hundred thousand people sing in choirs... All those interviewed placed great emphasis on the social identification through singing and also referred to the importance of Swedish folk song in the maintenance of the choral singing tradition and national identity."
  5. ^ Music in Sweden at Swedish Institute website, accessed Feb. 2007.
  6. ^ "Guide till Svensk Hip-Hop Historia". Retrieved 2007-09-06.  (Swedish)
  7. ^ "Soundism Discography". Retrieved 2009-09-28. 

External links

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