Music of the Viking ageby Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio
A unique Danish band is making its' first U.S. appearance this weekend, at a festival in Moorhead. Krauka blends instruments from the Viking era with contemporary music to produce an unusual sound.
Moorhead, Minn. — One band member is a classically-trained violinist, one a folk musician, another a heavy-metal headbanger and one loves Viking sagas. The ancient Viking poems are the basis for many of Krauka's songs. They're mostly about fighting and drinking; there's one love song. The instruments are as diverse as a 5th century lyre, a whistle made from the leg bone of a sheep, and a bass guitar.
Krauka got its start about eight years ago at an event honoring Erik the Red, who, band members are careful to point out, discovered America. The group came together because of a love of ancient history.
"One time when I was 12 years old, I was in a museum in Lillehammer, Norway and there was a man that played on an old instrument. That was for me a big, big day," says Aksel Striim, a violinist.
It wasn't long before Striim was building his own instruments based on archeological finds from around 600 A.D. He had a good idea what the ancient lyre looked like, but learning to play it was a bit more challenging.
The band members say no one knows how the Viking music sounded because the Vikings didn't write musical scores. So the group has had to create their own sound. Jens Pederson says they only have one old tune, written in 1200 A.D. by a bored monk who scrawled it in the margin of a book.
The lyre is a simple instrument with seven strings and seven tones. Pederson says audiences love to hear rock-and-roll guitar riffs played on the ancient lyre.
The members of Krauka struggle a bit when they're asked to define their music.
"It's very strong and it has a very raw and wild energy that I love. But it also has a very beautiful lyrical side," says guitarist Soren Zederkoff.
"I think it would be hard to say precisely what it is," says Jens Pederson the lyre player. "It could be folk music, it could be rock music, a mix of that with strange sounds. I think maybe that's why the music feels old and new at the same time and its very hard to put in a box."
"Listen to this music!" implores singer Gudjon Rudolph. "You have to learn to listen to this music, man."
Rudolph has a twinkle in his eye as he talks about the stories from which he creates songs, but Krauka is more than entertainment to him. He was born in Iceland, where the Viking sagas are studied by school children. He wants to share a taste of the ancient tribal life with anyone who traces their roots to the Viking culture.
"We are very proud in Iceland as the land that keeps this old history of the Vikings. We've got it in the blood," says Rudolph. "I think it's good for every culture to know their roots. "
Krauka plays this weekend in Moorhead, the band plans to return to the U.S. later this year for a concert in Denver.
- Morning Edition, 06/22/2007, 7:55 a.m.