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Kulning: The Swedish Herding Calls of the North

A hypnotic singing tradition

12 February 2021

“We were born into labor and responsibility. And it has followed us our entire lives. It’s in our blood.”

These words struck me deeply. This was 2017, and I was listening to recordings in Dalarnas museum’s sound archive. The voice belonged to Karin Saros, a Swedish woman from Mora, Dalarna, born April 20, 1887.

At the age of thirteen, she was sent to work for the first time on a Swedish fäbod, or summer farm, to herd the family’s cattle and make sustainable milk products for the coming winter. In this way, village women spent every summer without the company of men. Karin wrote letters to her sister describing every detail of life on the fäbod. She was eighty-six when she read these childhood letters for the microphone. In her voice, I hear that she speaks without most of her teeth. Her voice is low and creaky but full of melancholic remembrance and youthful longing.

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Reference: www.folklife.si; www.francemusique.fr; www.bbc.com