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date: 22 October 2019


  • Pandora Hopkins


Archipelago of 18 inhabited volcanic islands in the North Sea between Iceland and Scotland with a total area of 1399 square km and a population of about 45,000. Independent linguistic and musical traditions are maintained despite a lengthy history of political domination, first by Norway and then by Denmark (the islands achieved home rule in 1948). Today old and new, indigenous and international music traditions co-exist; all indigenous traditions are vocal and are associated poetry, dance, drama and history. Musical instruments imported from European countries have been present for at least two centuries but Færoese have shown little interest until recently.

The Færoes are renowned for ballad-dancing, a heritage dating back to the Middle Ages. Music and language are interdependent in the Færoes, as reflected in the recitative-like ballad performance practice of kvæđi. Philologist Jens Christian Svabo (1746–1824) documented what he assumed to be dying musical and linguistic traditions by collecting ballad-texts from singers in the Færoese countryside, using materials he gathered to compile a Færoese-Danish-Latin dictionary. Svabo's ballad collection was not published until the 20th century, by which time Færoese had replaced Danish as the official language, and the ballad tradition began to attract attention from abroad....

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