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Sweden

Geography & Topography

Capital: Stockholm (1,372,565 people)

Population: 9,453,000

Area: 449,964 km2

Language: Swedish

Religion: Christians, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Muslims

Currency: Swedish Krona

History

Sweden, officially the Kingdom of Sweden, is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland, and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund.

At 450,295 square kilometres, Sweden is the third largest country in the European Union by area, with a total population of about 9.4 million. Sweden has a low population density of 21 inhabitants per square kilometre with the population mostly concentrated to the southern half of the country. About 85% of the population live in urban areas. Sweden’s capital is Stockholm, which is also the largest city.

Sweden emerged as an independent and unified country during the Middle Ages. In the 17th century, the country expanded its territories to form the Swedish Empire. The empire grew to be one of the great powers of Europe in the 17th and early 18th century. Most of the conquered territories outside the Scandinavian Peninsula were lost during the 18th and 19th centuries. The eastern half of Sweden, present-day Finland, was lost to Russia in 1809. The last war in which Sweden was directly involved was in 1814, when Sweden by military means forced Norway into a personal union. Since then, Sweden has been at peace, adopting a non-aligned foreign policy in peacetime and neutrality in wartime.

Today, Sweden is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy of government and a highly developed economy. In 2010, it ranked fourth in the world in The Economist’s Democracy Index and ninth in the United Nations’ Human Development Index. In 2010, the World Economic Forum ranked Sweden as the second most competitive country in the world, after Switzerland. Sweden has the lowest Gini coefficient of all countries which makes Sweden the most equal country on earth in terms of economic division. Sweden has been a member of the European Union since 1 January 1995 and is a member of the OECD.

Performing Arts

Music

Sweden has a rich musical tradition, ranging from mediaeval folk ballads to hip hop music. The music of the pre-Christian Norse has been lost to history, although historical re-creations have been attempted based on instruments found in Viking sites. The instruments used were the lur (a sort of trumpet, see picture), simple string instruments, wooden flutes and drums. It is possible that the Viking musical legacy lives on in some of the old Swedish folk music. Sweden has a significant folk-music scene, both in the traditional style as well as more modern interpretations which often mix in elements of rock and jazz. Väsen is more of a traditionalist group, using a unique, traditional Swedish instrument called the nyckelharpa while Garmarna, Nordman and Hedningarna have more modern elements. There is also Sami music, called the joik, which is actually a type of chant which is part of the traditional Saami animistic spirituality but has gained recognition in the international world of folk music. Sweden’s most classic and notable composers include Carl Michael Bellman and Franz Berwald.

ABBA was one of the first internationally well-known popular music bands from Sweden, and still ranks among the most prominent bands in the world, with about 370 million records sold. With ABBA, Sweden entered into a new era, in which Swedish pop music gained international prominence.

There have been many other internationally successful bands since, such as Roxette, Ace of Base, Europe, A-teens, The Cardigans and The Hives, to name some of the biggest, and recently there has been a surge of Swedish Indie pop bands such as Loney, Dear, Shout Out Louds, The Radio Dept. and Dungen, a group which incorporates many elements of Swedish traditional folk music in their sound. One of the biggest bands in Sweden is the rock band Kent.

Sweden has a rather lively jazz scene. During the last sixty years or so it has attained a remarkably high artistic standard, stimulated by domestic as well as external influences and experiences. The Centre for Swedish Folk Music and Jazz Research has published an overview of jazz in Sweden by Lars Westin.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dance

Examples of traditional Swedish dances are:

Hambo

Hambo: The hambo is a traditional dance that originated in Sweden in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is a couple dance in ¾ time, danced to music played with a strong accent on the first beat and a tempo that varies from moderate to fast (100 to 120 beats per minute). The hambo is a dance with a fixed pattern and tunes almost always have a corresponding eight measure structure.

Polska: The polska is a family of music and dance forms shared by the Nordic countries: called polsk in Denmark, polska in Sweden and Finland and by several names in Norway in different regions and/or for different variants – including pols, rundom and springleik. The polska is almost always seen as a partner dance in 3/4-beat, although variants in 2/4 time and for two or more couples exist.

Slängpolska: The Slängpolska is a Swedish folk dance and sometimes also the description of certain folk music tunes. The dances bearing the name slängpolska can be divided into two major types.

The first type is for two or four people, and is one of the sixteenth-note versions of the polska. The dances of this type usually have in common that they are danced on the spot, either during parts of the dance or during the entire dance. Focus is on different holds and on the divisions between them, and these divisions could be responsible for the name slängpolska. A typical slängpolska of this type could consist of two basic set positions: one in which the couple is spinning around one another while holding crossed hands outstretched with centrifugal force, the other in which the couple is spinning around one another in a closer position while holding the partner’s shoulders and arms. The division between the two parts of the dance is then made by e.g. both dancers spinning out from their hold and then spinning once on their own with a clap of hands, followed by a returning to the hold. A common dance step consists of four steps distributed in the following way over three beats: one long, two short, one long. Beat 1, 2 and 3 have almost equal stress and length, which also is reflected in the corresponding music. A very free variant of this slängpolska type, consisting of walking through the room with different holds and turning on the spot with different holds and the same walking steps, could just as well be danced to 2/4 or 4/4 time music, as do the related Norwegian dances gangar and bonde, but in Sweden it is most commonly danced to 3/4 time music.

The second type of slängpolska is more related to other polskas than to the above slängpolska type, in that the couples move counterclockwise around the periphery of the room, and choose to do so with or without rotation clockwise around an internal axis, one full rotation for each measure. The music and dances in this category share a high tempo, givin a “tossing” feeling, which is often reflected in the rotation part of the dance in the form of a jump or a lift as part of the step recurring in every measure until the couple decides to dance without rotation for a while. The name has been used from midwest Sweden (Värmland) to the north of Sweden, and there is a large diversity in music and dance character, since the name mainly refers to the tempo. Both in midwest and north Sweden there are examples of dances which can both be danced as a slower “polska” and as a faster “slängpolska” with retention of the basic steps.

 

Some interesting facts:

  • Sweden also has a prominent choral music tradition, deriving in part from the cultural importance of Swedish folk songs. In fact, out of a population of 9.2 million, it is estimated that five to six hundred thousand people sing in choirs.
  • Swedish people have the longest life expectancy in Europe (80.51 years in 2006).
  • As of 2006, Sweden was the most generous country in the world regarding aid to poor countries. It is the only nation where donations exceed 1% of the GDP.

 

Swedish Community in Australia:

More information on the Swedish community: