Music of Sweden

Dungen At Malmöfestivalen 2006.

The Music of Sweden shares the tradition of Nordic folk dance music with its neighboring countries in northern Europe, including polka, schottische, waltz, polska and mazurka. The accordion, clarinet, fiddle and nyckelharpa are among the most common Swedish folk instruments. The 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. By 1970, the "dansband" culture also began.

Swedish music has also included more modern and pop influences. On a per capita basis, Sweden is one of the world's most successful exporters of popular music.[1] Its most famous export is ABBA, which was a worldwide musical phenomenon. 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. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Scandinavian death metal bands became very popular with the international heavy metal community.

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


Swedish folk songs are 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.

Swedish 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.[2] 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 that used 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 such as Per Gudmundson added a tuning slide and revitalized the instrument.

Accordions and harmonicas were an integral part of Swedish folk music from the beginning of the 20th century, when they 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 fell out of favour within the roots revival, and did not return 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 reflected a popular trend towards jazz- and rock-oriented folk music, featuring many performers who brought a new vitality to Swedish folk.


The father of Swedish classical music is often claimed to be Johan Helmich Roman(1694-1758). His most famous work is the Drottningholmsmusiken. Another influential composer is Carl Michael Bellman, whose patron was the king Gustav III of Sweden. Bellmans' songs are often about drinking, prostitution and every-day love troubles. He was a virtuoso improviser, and his songs, of which "Fredmans sånger" are the best-known, are widely performed in Europe in different translations. Joseph Martin Kraus (1756-1792) had a life span very similar to that of Mozart, who lived between 1756 and 1792. Kraus was an innovative composer, with a music filled with finesse and bold contrasts. His harmonic language was very personal, although his ability to develop motives never reached the level of the viennese composers such as Mozart or Haydn. In the early romantic era, Franz Berwald (1796-1868) was the most prominent of the Swedish composers. His music was almost ignored during his lifetime, and he made his living as an orthopedic surgeon. He has gained most of his recognition after his death, and composers such as Atterberg and Wilhelm Stenhammar worked hard to raise the interest in Berwalds' music.

Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871-1927) was one of the later national romantic composers. He owned a reputation as one of the finest pianist of his time. He studied some years in Berlin, where he came in contact with the German high romanticism, such as Bruckner and Wagner, which influenced him a lot when he wrote his two symphonies. He also wrote six string quartets, a respectable amount of piano music and one opera, Tyrfing, treating on a Norse mythological subject. Another national romantic composer who was also a conductor and violinist, was Hugo Alfvén (1872-1960). His orchestration is bright and colorful, reminiscent of that of Richard Strauss, although the harmonic language differs a lot. Some of his works, such as the Swedish rhapsodies, are program music, which means music with an underlying program that is meant to be evoked in the listeners mind. Alfvén appears as a character in the film The passion of Marie.

Important composers in the early 1900s are Hilding Rosenberg, Kurt Atterberg, Ture Rangström. The best-known opera singers were 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.[3]


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. Lunds Studentsångförening (LSS) and Orphei Drängar (OD) are two world class male choirs 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.



Well-known jazz names include Alice Babs who worked with Duke Ellington for many years from 1963 and onwards, Arne Domnerus who has recorded albums with James Moody, Art Farmer and Clifford Brown, Bengt Hallberg, Bobo Stenson, Esbjörn Svensson Trio, composer and jazz musician Georg Riedel, Georg Wadenius, best-selling jazz musician Jan Johansson, the jazz duo Koop, Lars Gullin, the multi-instrumentalist and composer Magnus Lindgren, singer and actress Monica Zetterlund, Nils Landgren, Putte Wickman, Rolf Ericsson, guitar virtuoso Ulf Wakenius, and Åke Hasselgård. In addition American jazz trumpeter Don Cherry was based in Sweden for much of his later life.


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 Eurovision Song Contest 1974. 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. After ABBA's win Sweden has won the contest a further five times: 1984 with Herreys, 1991 with Carola Häggkvist, 1999 with Charlotte Nilsson, 2012 with Loreen and 2015 with Måns Zelmerlöw, making them the country with the second-highest number of wins behind Ireland. 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, Secret Service (band), Agnes, The Wannadies, Ace of Base, Bubbles, Kent, Carola Häggkvist, 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 Loreen, 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 and Supergroupies. 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, Laleh, Per Gessle, Ted Gärdestad, Helen Sjöholm, Charlotte Perrelli, Loreen, Sanna Nielsen, 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.

Bubblegum dance

Scandinavia is considered the bubblegum dance capital of the world. Many bubblegum dance artists emerged from Sweden, most famously (formerly known as Smile). is made famous by the videogame DDR, or Dance Dance Revolution, with their hit called "Butterfly", Konami has signed them to include some of their songs in their games.

Hip hop

Main article: Swedish 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.[4] 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 Dim Out, Promoe, Roffe Ruff, 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 or Metal are, 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".

The most popular Swedish rock band in Scandinavia today is Kent as reflected in their high record sales and large fanbase.


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. The Uppsala group Labyrint (band) is widely spread with their musical mix of rap and reggae called förortsreggae. Swedish music producers Soundism are behind Swedish reggae artists Kapten Röd, Papa Dee, Million Stylez, and Chilly & Leafy (and more), also records with international artist such as Junior Ketlly, Lady Saw, and Buju Banton.[5]

Punk rock

Main article: Punk in Sweden

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, Charta 77, 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, Bombshell Rocks, and Raised Fist.

Heavy metal

Sweden is known for a large number of heavy metal bands.

Swedish musicians are credited for creating melodic death metal, also known as Gothenburg metal, in particular the bands In Flames, Avatar, At The Gates, Dark Tranquility, which later furtherly developed adding new style influences and inspirating also other acts like the American melodic metalcore bands. Bathory is credited for helping create black metal, a style that became popular in Norway, as well as pioneering Viking metal, and deceased Black Metal icon Per Yngve Ohlin was from Sweden . Dissection is also noted for their large influence on Swedish black metal, in particular melodic black metal. The country is also well known for death metal, progressive, doom and power metal bands. Swedish Candlemass is one of the first and most influential doom metal bands, starting in 1984. Yngwie J. Malmsteen is one of the fathers of neo-classical metal. Meshuggah is an avant-garde metal band which developed the so-called djent from the late 80s and the 90s. Opeth is regarded as one of the most influential and innovative metal bands, crossing melodic death metal and progressive rock between the 90s and the 2000s. Passenger is considered the swan song of the nu metal scene in the early 2000s. Famous other bands include Pain of Salvation, In Flames, Entombed, Dismember, Hypocrisy, Amon Amarth, Arch Enemy, Soilwork, Freak Kitchen, Sabaton and more.

Some of the prominent metal acts are:

Successful progressive/psychedelic acts are for example Bo Hansson, Dungen, Anekdoten, Morte Macabre, Opeth and Paatos. Finland 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.

Progressive and jazz-rock music

Sweden is also known in some circles for its progressive and jazz-rock musicians, particularly for virtuoso-led acts including Andromeda, Anekdoten, Änglagård, Arbete och Fritid, Björn J:son Lindh, Bo Kaspers Orkester, Janne Schaffer, Kaipa, Landberk, Samla Mammas Manna, Opeth, The Flower Kings, and Beardfish.


Main article: Progg

During the 1970s, the progg (not to be confused with progressive rock) 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. Others were progressive mainly in a political (usually left-wing) and lyrical sense, such as Nationalteatern, Blå Tåget and Hoola Bandoola Band. One of the most unusual progressive music artists in Sweden has been Avant-Garde songstress iamamiwhoami.

Electronic music

Electronic music in Sweden has been heavily influenced by German electronic music. 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 Swedish House Mafia including Steve Angello, Sebastian Ingrosso, and Axwell have topped the house music charts and DJ top 10s around the world.

In 2011, the Swedish artist Tim Bergling (Avicii) was voted the 6th best DJ in the world in the Top 100 DJ poll. Other similar artists of note are John Dahlbäck, Manse, Eric Prydz, Nause, Albin Myers, the duo Dada Life, Adrian Lux, Basshunter, Otto Knows, Alesso, Rebecca & Fiona, Cazzette, Jakob Liedholm, Sebjak, Icona Pop, Steerner, Will & Dan and Tjernberg. The trio Swedish House Mafia is by far the most popular electronic music group from Sweden.

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 best-known producer within this genre being Adam Beyer, head of the Drumcode label with notable artists 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.

See also


  1. Swedish Chamber of Commerce for the United Kingdom "How is Business?"
  2. Ling, Jan. 1967. Nyckelharpan: Studier i ett folkligt musikinstrument p.45.
  3. Durant, Colin (2003). Choral Conducting: philosophy and practice, Routledge, pp. 46–47. ISBN 0-415-94356-6: "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."
  4. "Guide till Svensk Hip-Hop Historia" (in Swedish). Retrieved 2007-09-06.
  5. "Soundism Discography". Retrieved 2009-09-28.
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