The Best of Nordic Folk Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Discover the best of Nordic Folk Music from the comfort of your own home. From the traditional to the modern, we’ve got it all covered.

What is Nordic Folk Music?

Nordic folk music is a genre of music that is traditionally associated with the Nordic countries of Northern Europe. This includes Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands), as well as the countries of Finland and Estonia.

Nordic folk music has its roots in the music of the Vikings, who inhabited Scandinavia and the surrounding areas from the 8th to the 11th centuries. This music was passed down through the generations orally, and was largely based on storytelling and poetry. As such, it has a strong tradition of oral history and mythical narratives.

Nordic folk music is typically very atmospheric, with a emphasis on melody and rhythm. It often features instruments such as the fiddle, accordion, flute, and guitar. Nordic folk songs often deal with topics such as love, loss, nature, and nostalgia.

If you’re looking to explore Nordic folk music, some great artists to start with include Olafur Arnalds, Vashti Bunyan, Mount Eerie, Linda Perhacs, SamiYusuf ,and Susanna .

The Origins of Nordic Folk Music

Nordic folk music has its roots in the music of the Viking era, when the people of Scandinavia – now Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland – were pagan and believed in gods such as Odin, Thor and Freyja. Viking music was heavily influenced by the music of the countries they conquered, such as Anglo-Saxon England and Ireland. This can be heard in the use of the harp, which was brought to Scandinavia by the Vikings.

Over time, Christian missionaries began to convert the Nordic people to Christianity, and Nordic folk music began to Reflect this change. Hymns and other religious songs were written in the native languages of Scandinavia, and instruments such as the lutefisk (a type of medieval fiddle) and tagelharpe (a plucked string instrument) became popular.

The 13th century saw a rise in Nordic nationalism, which led to a surge in interest in Nordic folk music. Composers began writing pieces that were intended to evoke a sense of national identity, including patriotic songs and ballads about famous historical figures. The rise of Romanticism in the 19th century also had an impact on Nordic folk music, with composers increasingly turning to traditional folk tunes for inspiration.

Today, Nordic folk music is enjoyed by people all over the world. Some of the most famous exponents of this genre include Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, Finnish composer Jean Sibelius and Swedish singer ABBA.

The Characteristics of Nordic Folk Music

Folk music is the traditional music of a region or country, typically passed down through generations by oral tradition. Folk music is usually acoustic, meaning it is played on instruments that do not require electricity, although some folk songs are now adapted for electrical instruments. Nordic folk music is characterized by its use of the fiddle, accordion, flute, and nyckelharpa (a keyed fiddle), as well as its focus on ballads and dance tunes.

Some common themes in Nordic folk music include nature, love, loss, and preparing for winter. The music often has a melancholy tone, reflecting the long winters and dark nights of the Nordic countries. In spite of this, Nordic folk music is also known for its beauty and upbeat rhythms, which can make it highly infectious and impossible to resist dancing to.

If you want to explore Nordic folk music further, we highly recommend checking out some of the following artists:

-Väsen: A Swedish trio who play traditional Swedish folk songs on a variety of different instruments, including the fiddle, nyckelharpa, and mandola.
-Grálând: A Finnish band who fuse traditional Finnish melodies with elements of rock and metal to create a unique and powerful sound.
-Nordman: A Swedish band who write their own songs in the style of traditional Swedish folk music. Their lyrics often deal with social or political issues.
-Garmarna: A Swedish band who combine traditional Swedish folk music with modern influences from rock and electronica.

The Best of Nordic Folk Music

Nordic Folk Music has a long and rich history, dating back hundreds of years. The music has been passed down from generation to generation, and has been adapted and changed over time. The Best of Nordic Folk Music is a compilation of some of the best-known and loved songs from the genre.


Värttinä is a Finnish folk music band that was formed in the early 1980s by a group of friends who were passionate about traditional Finnish music. The band has gone through many lineup changes over the years, but the core members have remained the same. Värttinä’s sound is unique, combining elements of traditional Finnish folk music with rock and pop influences. Their music is highly energetic and often features complex percussion patterns.

Värttinä has released 12 studio albums, the most recent of which, “Ilmatar”, was released in 2016. The band has toured extensively throughout Europe and North America, and they have appeared at some of the biggest festivals in the world, including Glastonbury and WOMAD. In 2009, Värttinä was nominated for a Grammy Award in the “Best World Music Album” category.

If you’re looking for an introduction to Nordic folk music, Värttinä is a great place to start. Their music is accessible and engaging, and it will give you a taste of the vibrant folk traditions of Finland.


Hedningarna is one of the most popular and influential Nordic folk music groups. They were formed in Stockholm, Sweden in 1986 by brothers Stefan and Anders Wikström. The group’s name means “the heathens” in Swedish, and their music is heavily influenced by ancient Scandinavian folk traditions.

Hedningarna has released ten studio albums, the most recent of which, Karelia Visa, was released in 2016. Their music has been used in numerous films and TV shows, including the Academy Award-nominated film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Hedningarna has toured extensively throughout Europe and North America, and their live shows are legendary for their energy and spirit.

If you’re looking for an introduction to Nordic folk music, Hedningarna is a great place to start. Their unique sound is sure to leave you wanting more.


Garmarna is a Swedish folk group that formed in 1991. The band is known for its unique blend of traditional Swedish folk music and heavy metal. Garmarna has released six studio albums and one live album, and their music has been featured in films and television shows.


Triakel is a Swedish folk music trio consisting of fiddle, accordion, and guitar. The band was formed in 1999 by Mats Eden and Johan Lindström, who were later joined by Emma Härdelin on fiddle. Triakel has released eight albums, most recently “Vittras” in 2016.


Wimme is a Finnish multi-instrumentalist and singer who has been at the forefront of the Finnish music scene since the early 1990s. He is a master of the joik, the traditional chanting vocal style of the Sami people, and has incorporated it into his unique brand of folk music. Wimme has released nine solo albums, and his music has been featured in film and television soundtracks. He has toured extensively throughout Europe and North America, and his live shows are a celebration of Nordic culture and tradition.

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