One country I have not posted any traditional music from is Sweden, and now that the northern hemisphere has passed into winter, and that seemingly unending series of all manner of holidays is upon us, I thought I’d head back to Scandinavia for some authentic folk music from a local 78 label. Additionally, I’ve added a little bonus record this week, but more on that below.

Radiotjänst is the name of the state-run Swedish radio network which began broadcasting in 1925, and began releasing 78s in the late 1930s, many of them folkloric. Today’s selection is a medley of two traditional fiddle pieces for two performers from Sweden’s southernmost region, Skåne (or Scania). Carl-Eric Berndt, on the fiddle (fiol), was from Lund, and began collecting folk songs and melodies from Skåne in the 1920s, with several being published in Sweden in the late 1960s. Accompanying Berndt is Richard Isacson, who is apparently playing the local Skåne fiddle known as the träskofiol, or the clog fiddle. The clog fiddle is a fiddle actually made from a worn wooden shoe (see a photo here). The two tracks here, “Svingedans” (literally “swing dance,” after Mårten Sjöbeck) and the “Polska” (not to be confused with a polka, which is in 2/4) are part of the continuing tradition of folk dance music in southern Sweden. They were recorded January 21, 1950.

Carl-Eric Berndt & Richard Isacson – Svingedans; Polska

In addition, I’ve added a piece from Finland this week. Now, I think you could imagine that it might take considerable convincing for me to post a classic Christmas song. These songs are relentlessly played in virtually every store that opens its doors during this season. At least in my part of the world, they are played at every event, they are used to sell meaningless products, they hammer and hammer and hammer away at you until your wallet is drained and you cease to recognize that you’re supposed to be celebrating. Heaven help you if you don’t happen to be Christian – the pervasive nature of these songs must seem positively bizarre.

Yet, as much as I try to resist, I am struck by how beautiful the well-worn melody of “Silent Night” can sound when played by Ulla Katajavuori, a virtuoso of the Finnish zither, the kantele. The kantele is Finland’s national instrument, and prototypes date back approximately 2,000 years. Traditionally, it is played on the lap.

Ulla Katajavuori was born in 1909 in the coastal town of Rauma and studied kantele under Paul Salminen at the Helsinki Conservatory. She always recorded as a soloist, never as an accompanist, believing that an orchestra would drown the kantele’s intimate qualities. The arrangement for this piece was by her husband, Eero Koskimies. Katajavuori died in 2001. This piece was recorded March 24, 1949.

Ulla Katajavuori – Stilla Natt

Thanks to everyone who has continued to visit Excavated Shellac in 2009. Here’s to 2010 – there will be more. Just you wait!

Technical Notes
Label: Radiotjänst
Issue Number: RA 174
Matrix Number: Rtj 3248

Label: Cupol
Issue Number: 4275
Matrix Number: 1515

Thanks, as always, to TK.
To hear more Ulla Katajavuori, check Volume 5 of the Secret Museum series.

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