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An appreciation by freelance journalist Annika Norlin
also known as the artist Hello Saferide 

We’re stupid and lazy here in Sweden. We buy records by Bob Dylan, Mary J Blige and Britney Spears and enjoying wallowing in the joys and sorrows of someone from the other side of the Atlantic.
It has never occurred to us that our own great-great-grandmother might have got her kicks in the same kind of way. Even though she lived in a one-horse village in Jämtland there must have been love and laughs there too – and music.
And when a friend of mine nowadays complains that all the boys she meets are hopeless cases, you can bet the same problem existed a hundred years ago.

All the young men are as bright as summer days –
What is it that makes them change then?
When they’re married they turn useless every one,
At home they hardly ever stay then.
Every evening they get up and tramp away
To the nearest inn full of drunken din,
Home they stagger late in a woeful state.
What a wretched life to be a drinker’s wife –
Better to remain unmarried.

This is a traditional tune from the singing of Anna Lovisa Johansson from Halland in the south of Sweden, and it’s material for the ultimate hit single. I had no idea there were uncompromising, fun words like these set to such glorious tunes. I hadn’t thought it possible. I suppose I imagined they sang hymns, or never sang anything at all, since all you see from those times are black-and-white pictures of people out harvesting.

So it’s just as well there are people like Triakel around, with the energy and enthusiasm and knowledge to realise that songs like these are well worth the effort involved in finding them. They hunt out the songs, they record them, they travel around and play them. And they get people like me, clueless about our own history, interested in understanding and learning more.
Is it difficult, obscure stuff? Not at all. “The Birthday Party”, a song about a farmer celebrating his fiftieth year, is as catchy as any Max Martin production.

Then there’s “The Lion and the Bride”, a fantastic broadside ballad about Selma the lion-tamer’s daughter. Selma is forced to marry a man she has never met. The man waits while she goes into the cage to say goodbye to her best friend, the lion. “Isn’t that lovely?” you think complacently.

Then you get to the second last verse:

And now in confusion and unthinking rage The lion leaps round the confines of his cage. He wants to save Selma, but fear grips his heart – Oh God! in his anguish he tears her apart.

 

In other words the lion kills Selma so that she won’t have to marry this nasty stranger. It makes you stop and think, “What was it that really happened?”

This music is tougher than any gangsta rap from the dingiest basement in Brooklyn. And it’s harder than thrash metal from the screaming throat of any longhaired man in leather. It’s tough and hard because the songs never once reveal how you’re supposed to feel. The choice is yours. When Selma dies Janne goes right on pumping his harmonium to the same beat, Kjell-Erik’s fiddle keeps weaving its tapestry of colors and Emma sings on, direct and clear.
And that is just what is best of all about Triakel. They are actually capable of standing back and letting the songs speak for themselves, intensifying and polishing them but never explaining them.
Pump, pump.
Squeak, squeak.

There’s a tune you hear on the radio that goes roughly like this:
Oh yeah, down baby
Wanna get doen oh yeah baby down.

That’s the kind of stuff we listen to, while there are hits from centuries ago just waiting for the chance to fill our ears with terror and longing and sex.
And Emma sings of a woman who gave her love to someone who never returned it. She longs for death, to escape her suffering but also to punish the friend who let her down:

My parents dear, farewell to you,
My sister and my brother too,
Farewell my fair and false young friend –
In heaven we will meet again.

The fact remains: we’re stupid and lazy here in Sweden.

annika
Photo: Pär Olofsson

"This music is tougher

than any gangsta rap" 

triakel.se