Genre: Rock, Psychedelic, Folk
I’m an American- I like my food fast, my women blonde, and my de-facto official language as English. Don’t get me wrong though- while I may not be able to speak for every one of my compatriots, I believe that everyone who comes here should be treated the same way as a native born. After all, we’re all at some point in history, immigrants to the land of the free, home of the Whopper.
Save the occasional Spanish siren in my ears through one import or another, I was largely unwilling to listen to music that wasn’t sung in my language. Either I’m in good company, or you can chalk it up to the pervasive American market, which serves as the reasoning behind foreign language lyrics in popular music remaining in many respects obscure, lest they conform to the ears of Anglophones.
After America and Britain, Sweden may be one of the largest exporters of pop music in the world. (Don’t make me break out my heinously off-key version of “Dancing Queen”). Thing is, their exported talent, from Abba to Peter Bjorn And John, all sing in English.
Enter: Gustav Ejstes: the man behind psychedelic-rock revivalist group Dungen (translated to “The Grove”) and exit: the staunchest of the English-only listeners. I told myself I wouldn’t know chant from what psychedelic revival- good revival at that- should sound like, and I'd be even less familiar with Swedish folk. It was when I first saw the video for “Festival,” which is one of only two English words found in the tracklist for the album Ta Det Lungt, that I exclaimed-
“Take It Easy? Wait a minute, I can't even understand it- it’s totally ridiculous!”
Spoken like a true monolingual knucklehead.
A friend of mine from Gothenburg, whom I introduced to the music, envies the fact that I can listen to them without knowing a word of Swedish. It’s a different experience to appreciate music when you’re held back by the mystery of an unknown language. If the music’s especially good, it winds up not being restrictive at all. It is, in fact, quite liberating- perhaps like listening with the ears of an infant, before conditioning sets in & the little league baseball flags start to decorate your room.
He then promptly corrected me in that it’s pronounced “Dune-gin” and not “Dungeon.”
If you’re reading this, then it’s a safe bet that you have internet access, thereby readily giving you the opportunity to find an English translation of Ejstes’ lyrics if you’re so inclined. But really, why would you want to?
I had the privilege back in August, and where many a show I’ve been to lately ended in disappointment, I left that night stupefied at how much of a performance I witnessed. I saw a frontman who, in person, looked as shaggy as Houses of the Holy-era Robert Plant, and about as thin as Mick Jagger in his more illicit days. Ejstes sashayed, wiggled, and writhed manically on stage as he sang, played the guitar, piano, tambourine, flute, and fiddle, no joke.
Still unsure? Well drop it, and pick up the headphones, or preferably, a good stereo system so it can hit you hard enough that the ringing in your ears reverberates even longer than the three years it’s been since my very first listen.
Dungen are in fact, not revivalists. They don’t have to be, nor do they have to sing in your language.
Ta Det Lungt (2004)
Tio Bitar (2007)