Swedish Language Blog

An Introduction to Swedish Musik Posted by on Nov 5, 2019 in Culture, Swedish Language, Vocabulary

Rodrigo Rivas Ruiz/imagebank.sweden.se “Music Festival,” Way Out West Festival


Music is a huge passion of mine, so I’ve decided to dedicate the first post of each month to it. Music allows listeners to explore a variety of narratives within a culture and is a fantastic tool for language acquisition. Whether it’s boosting general listening comprehension or learning the rhythm of spoken language, music is an especially helpful tool for mastering a melodic language like Swedish. My music posts will highlight ways to integrate music as a tool in language learning, while weaving in all kinds of Swedish music factoids, exploring niche genres, and having a little fun! But first, let’s set the scene…why is Swedish music such a big deal?


att lyssna på musik           to listen to music 

   -> lyssnar -> lyssnade -> har lyssnat -> lyssna! 

  Chelsea älskar att lyssna på svensk musik. 
  Chelsea loves to listen to Swedish music. 

svensk – svenskt – svenska      Swedish, en / ett / plural forms

svensk musik                                Swedish music
ett svenskt album                       a Swedish album
svenska artister                           Swedish artists /musicians


Music is one of Sweden’s biggest exports

70’s and 80’s groups like ABBA and Roxette need no introduction. ABBA alone has sold over 385 million records making them one of Universal Music’s biggest music acts ever. Electronic beat makers like Avicii, who was the first DJ to play at Radio City Music Hall, and Swedish House Mafia, who sold out Madison Square Garden in 9 minutes have both propelled modern Swedish sounds around the globe.  Tove Lo, Zara Larsson, First Aid Kit, and pop superwoman Robyn have all paved the way for Swedes in the music scene abroad. 

en låt – låtar                               song – songs

Svenska artister sjunger ofta låtar på engelska. 
Swedish artists often sing songs in English.


But how are these Swedes so good to begin with?

Vilhelm Stokstad/imagebank.sweden.se, “Midsummer”

First, support of music education shines in Sweden. Students can choose music as their focus of study in high school, providing young musicians with formal study. Students learn to play instruments and compose original pieces, setting them up for success in the music industry. 

att spela instrument            to play an instrument

     -> spelar -> spelade -> har spelat -> spela!

     Kan du spela instrument?   Can you play an instrument? 

Next, the Swedish Arts Council gives out generous funding to emerging artists, covering costs like recording, production, and the releasing of their music. And where do all those epic lead singers come from? According to this stat from the Swedish Choir Association, a staggering 600,000 Swedes are members of a choir. In a country of roughly 10.2 million people, that a lot of love for vocal traditions!

att sjunga                               to sing

   -> sjunger -> sjöng -> har sjungit -> sjung! 

Jag och mina barn sjunger alltid i bilen.
My kids and I always sing in the car. 

Sveriges körförbund        the Swedish choir Association

Sveriges körförbunds motto är “Körsång är livet.”
The Swedish Choir Association’s motto is “Chorale music is life.” 

Kulturrådet                          the Swedish Arts Council 

Kulturrådet har ungefär femtio olika bidrag att söka.
The Swedish Arts Council has about fifty different grants to apply for. 

att söka bidrag                    to apply for a grant

-> söker -> sökte -> har sökt -> sök!

Artister kan söka bidrag inom musik, litteratur, teater, och mera!
Artists can apply for funding in music, literature, theater, and more!

Creators behind the scenes
Swedes have earned their keep in the music industry by writing and producing for some of the biggest international acts. Producers Max Martin, Shellback, and Red One have written hits for American pop groups like the Backstreet Boys, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Usher, just to name a few. Also, those ABBA guys Benny and Björn continue to compose a variety of pieces, penning a few musicals; Mamma Mia, Chess, and Kristina från Duvemåla.

att spela in                         to record

    ->spelar -> spelade -> har spelat -> spela! 

Texten är klar, nu är det dags att spela in!
The lyrics are done, now it’s time to record! 


Getting music to the people

Swedish innovators have developed some pretty brilliant ways to get more music to more people. The music streaming service Spotify is a Swedish-owned company, revolutionizing the way listeners have access to music and discover new artists. Soundcloud, a platform for artists to upload and share their music, is also a Swedish invention. Not to mention Pirate Bay, the file-sharing platform that stirred up loads of copyright controversy in the early 2000’s.

en spellista – listor                   a playlist/s

Henrik vill göra en ny spellista till festen på fredag.
Henrik wants to make a new playlist for the party on Friday. 

att upptäcka                                to discover 

     -> upptäcker -> upptäckte -> har upptäckt -> upptäck! 

   Med Spotify är det lätt att upptäcka nya artister.
   With Spotify, it’s easy to discover new artists.  

att ladda ner                                to download

    -> laddar -> laddade -> har laddat -> ladda!

   Många laddade ner gratis musik från Pirate Bay.
   Many downloaded free music from Pirate Bay.

Now it’s your turn!
Swedish students often tell me “It’s so hard to find Swedish music sung in Swedish! Everybody sings in English.” It’s true, a lot of them do. But remember you’re hearing the stuff targeted at English-speaking markets.  I’ve made a lengthy Spotify playlist of popular, indie, and classic artists across many genres, and decades -EVERY song is in Swedish. For folks learning Swedish, I’d suggest just listening and exploring at first. Don’t worry about comprehension for now, just enjoy!

Happy listening! Tell me you favorite songs from this list in the comments.

See the playlist below or click here to listen on Spotify!

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About the Author: Chelsea B

Chelsea is a Swedish language instructor and translator living in Minnesota, U.S. She has a degree in Scandinavian Studies from Gustavus Adolphus College and has experience living and working in Sweden from north to south! In her free time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, listening to music, and practicing slöjd, the Swedish word for handcraft.


  1. Viva:

    i really enjoyed this post. would you share your spotify lists?

    • Chelsea B:

      @Viva Hi, glad you liked the post! The Spotify list is embedded in the bottom of this post. You can click on it to listen 🙂

  2. Ross:

    Tack för det här. I particularly like ‘Uti vår hage’, and will google it immediately 🙂

    • Chelsea B:

      @Ross Tack för din kommentar, Ross! “Uti vår hage” is a classic so you’ll find many different versions of it, enjoy!