When you think of Swedish traditions, what comes to mind might be fika, lagom or Midsummer’s Day celebrations... but the country has another unique tradition that you may not have heard of: kulning, otherwise known as cow-calling.
Earlier this spring, our podcast host Aimee White (@aimeefw) travelled to Stockholm to meet Susanne Rosenburg, a professor at the Royal College of Music, and find out all about this unusual form of singing. It’s an ancient Swedish tradition that started during the Middle Ages as a way for farmers – at the time, usually lone women – to herd cattle and protect them from wolves using haunting folk-style singing calls. The lyrics of the calls tended to reflect the landscape and local animals, and the practice is still kept alive today by a small community of folk singers.
In this episode, we find out exactly what kulning is, the social impact that it has had on the country and how what started as a tradition in the Middle Ages has woven itself into modern music and life today. Visitors can even attend ‘cow-calling’ events, giving a look at a cultural heritage vastly different from their own. It’s hard to describe the sound kulning produces – it’s something like an eerie type of yodelling – you can get a taste by listening to the podcast.
By preserving subcultures like kulning, we gain a real insight into how traditions are formed and how they develop over time. We discover so much about a particular place’s history, and from that, what is important to its people and why.
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In the next episode, which comes out on 29th July, we’ll be chatting with extreme adventurer Ash Bhardwaj about his travels along the European-Russian border, for a project he is calling the ‘New Iron Curtain’.
This episode was hosted by Aimee White (@aimeefw) and produced by Femi Oriogun-Williams for Reduced Listening (reducedlistening.co.uk).