Intriguing music

I recently came across some tracks by the Swedish folk rock group Garmarna. They continue to intrigue me. The group appears to be dormant at present, although its Web site is still active and its music and merchandise can still be purchased there. Northside, a Web site devoted to old Scandinavian and Norse music, says this about Garmarna:

Garmarna have a unique sound: firmly based in Swedish traditional music but influenced by the rock tradition they’ve all grown up with. They ignore the unwritten laws of how traditional music should be performed; they know no boundaries. The music is half new – and newly-written – and half traditional with ancient instrumentation next to sampled drum-loops, suggestive mouth harps, tender violins and distorted guitars.

There’s more at the link.

Since I’ve been interested in ancient and old-time folk music all my life, with specific emphasis on British folk music as revived and reinterpreted by groups such as Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention, Pentangle, etc., this fits in very well with my musical tastes. I find Garmarna’s music dark, somber, but definitely true to what I know of Norse mythology and culture. Here are a few songs of theirs from YouTube, with English translations of the lyrics.

That last one, ‘Brun’, with its theme of the faithless knight or adventurer who kidnaps maidens in order to murder them, reminds me very much of the old English song ‘Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight‘. In both songs, the evildoer comes to a sticky end. Here’s Steeleye Span’s rendition of ‘The Elf Knight’ – one of my favorites among their songs. You’ll see the similarities in themes at once, particularly in the third verse of the latter song.

You’ll find many more of Garmarna’s songs on YouTube, as well as Steeleye Span‘s, of course. Both groups make interesting listening.



  1. I had not heard this stuff before – you can CERTAINLY hear the Nordic influence in Celtic music. My Dad was a Scot (ISlander, not HIGHlander), and quite obviously part Nordic in descent (red hair, red beard – I have the red hair, but NOT the beard. A good thing that, as I am female).

    His songs had that haunting quality – Gaelic was his first language, and I understood it well enough as a child, but am left adrift with it now. Although it will reappear fully in dreams from time to time. (I am, too, a big fan of Steeleye Span and Sandy Denny (Fairport) and Pentangle).

    Thanks for posting the Garmarna.

    Cap'n Jan

  2. There's a band here in sweden calling itself a medieval rockband(sometimes they say boyband), they use instruments of old(mostly flutes, bagpipes, and drums), and play a mix of different medieval/traditional music from all over europe.

    And just for fun, they sometimes play a rock or pop song, on their medieval instruments.

    I may have recommended them to you before… but here is: Patrask!

    This video is a live medley, featuring rock, pop and medieval:

    Studio recording of a medieval song(celtic I think):

    They should really be experienced live though, if possible(they play a lot of medieval faires and such).

    PS: The name translates to Riffraff. 😉

  3. Steeleye Span had a lot of air time in the Philadelphia area in the late 70's.

    I think you would really like another group called Rennissance. If you like Maddy Priors voice you'll love Anne Haslim.

    My favorites are Song for All Seasons, Black Flame, Mother Russia and Northern Lights.


  4. Be sure to check out Garmarna's version of Hildegard of Bingen's music.

    Probably my favorite interpretation of her work, and quite moving and somber at the same time.

    Oh… and give Dead can Dance a listen if you haven't already. I particularly like "Toward the Within."

    Hmmm… and Corvus Corax. Sure they look like a German death metal band… but they are amazing musicians. Filii Neidhardi is probably one of my favorite songs of all time.

    *Amazon links provided for reference… buy from wherever you like. I think I got most of mine through CDBaby years ago.

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