Kronos Quartet Performs ‘Tusen Tankar’ by Swedish Folk Ensemble Triakel


Last week, I attended my first Kronos Quartet concert with special guest, Rahman Asadollahi, the Azeri accordion wizard. To tell the truth, I’m not a big fan of minimalist music. Asadollahi’s music was the star of this show as far as I’m concerned. But there was a single piece Kronos performed which was absolutely gorgeous: Tusen Tankar (hear it) by the Swedish folk ensemble Triakel.

There is a certain profundity and grandeur to the finest Scandanavian folk music and Tusen Tankar illustrates this quality perfectly. It is a deeply moving song. Despite the sad and even maudlin lyrics, the melody carries tremendous hope and optimism about the human condition. While Triakel’s original version is lovely (this live video performance only adds to that loveliness), Kronos’ version conveyed a deeply poetic intensity and immediacy that kept mounting with each repetition of the hypnotic musical phrases. Kronos took the music to a very deep, spiritual place.

Triakel: Emma Härdelin (vocals), Kjell-Erik Eriksson (fiddle) and Janne Strömstedt (harmonium)

Unfortunately, Kronos appears to have started performing this song fairly recently and I haven’t found a recorded version. But if someone reading this knows of one, by all means please let me know.

Tusen Tankar (“A Thousand Thoughts”)

A thousand thoughts oppress me
for love of one who can’t be mine.
As through the world I ramble,
all I can do is pine.
All I can feel is the pain I bear
and it’s all for you, my dear.
Mankind’s false heart betrayed me
and left me in despair.

If I had never seen you,
Your hands, your face, your clear blue eyes,
If I had never been there
The first time you walked by,
I might have spent my days in joy,
I might be content and free.
The day will never dawn now
When sorrow leaves me be.

The pretty flowers of summer
I see them everywhere I go,
But death is all I long for,
Since your love I’ll never know.
And if my fate’s to die for you,
To you I’ll leave my pain,
For never while I’m living
Will I be free again.
–translation, Alistair Cochrane at Northside

Triakel’s website characterizes the group’s style:

The group’s repertoire covers everything from old music-hall numbers to hymns. Often the songs are rooted in the provinces of Jämtland and Hälsingland where the group’s members grew up. The music is quiet but emotionally charged, and arrangements are built up around Emma’s singing, which is the heart of the group’s sound. It is an expression of its members’ yearning to make simple, acoustic music, in contrast to the louder, amplified sounds they otherwise work with.

Please Note: This mp3 blog showcases my love for traditional music. I hope you come, listen, enjoy, and follow the links to buy the music. Such good deeds reward the artists I feature here and allow me to cover a small portion of the expense involved in maintaining this blog.