Swedish Language Blog

Tribute to Peps Persson: Swedish Blues and Reggae Legend Posted by on Jul 2, 2021 in Culture, Music, News, Pronunciation, Slang, Swedish Language, Vocabulary

Photo: Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Swedish blues and reggae musician Peps Persson passed away earlier this week. Known for infusing social criticism with music, and doing so in excellent skånska, this Swedish music Hall of Famer was a legendary collaborator and ambassador for his genre. This week, we’ll pay tribute to Peps with some music and honor his southern Swedish dialect, skånska.

Peps Perssons rötter / Peps Persson’s Roots

Born in 1946 in Helsingborg, Skåne, Per-Åke Tommy Persson, showed an interest in reggae and blues from a young age. Taking inspiration from reggae and blue giants Bob Marley and Muddy Waters respectively, Persson’s early music was written in English. In the 1970s, his group Peps Blodsband put out hits like “Falsk matematik” and “Hög standard,” considered classics in the Swedish progg genre. Progg stands for progressiv musik or progressivism, a nod to the left-wing, and anti-commercialist movements of Swedish music in the 60s and 70s. 

A few lines from “Hög standard”:

Hög standard, vad fan är hög standard?
Litar du på myten om vårt rika västerland?   
Känner du dig trygg och mätt, min vän?
Eller gnager tvivlet som en dålig tand?
Känner du dig lurad på något sätt?

High standard? What the hell is a high standard?
Do you trust the myth of our rich western country?
Do you feel safe and full, my friend?
Or does doubt gnaw at you like a bad tooth?
Do you feel tricked somehow



Peps som samarbetare – Peps as a Collaborator

Throughout his career, Persson collaborated with countless musicians besides his bandmates. Fellow skåningar, composer and musician Nisse Hellberg, as well as rapper and writer Timbuktu have worked with Persson. The hit song Dynamit! was co-written in 2003 by Timbutku and Persson, which they performed several times together in front of live audiences.

Peps sätter skånska på kartan – Peps Puts Scanian on the Map

Peps Persson sang på skånska which was uncommon at the beginning of his career. As an amateur linguist at best, I’ll add just a few notes of introduction to the Swedish-Danish hybrid that is skånska! This southern Swedish dialect is called Scanian in English and is spoken in the Swedish provinces of Skåne (Scania), Blekinge, and Halland. The short version of the story is that southern Sweden used to be part of Denmark. Thus, Danish pronunciation, even vocabulary, that is not found in standard Swedish, abounds in skånska still today. For vocabulary differences, visit this blog our team wrote a while back, “Southern Swedish Vocabulary.

Now I’ll highlight two main differences between standard Swedish and skånska so that you know what to listen for when you are enjoying a Peps Persson song.

1. Skånska speakers do not roll their r’s

Standard Swedish speakers use a quick flick of the tongue to roll the r-sound, whereas folks from Skåne use a guttural r, similar to a French r.

2. Swedish long vowels are replaced with diphthongs in skånska

What’s a diphthong, you say?  This “gliding vowel” sound happens as two vowel sounds are created in one syllable. The tongue moves during the pronunciation of the vowel, resulting in two emphases. The standard Swedish “å” has an “eåo” sound in skånska, the “u” sounds like “äu” and so forth. 

In my opinion, the best single illustration of skånska in a Peps song has to be the 1992 hit single “Oh boy!” because of its long and drawn-out end phrases. I featured this song a few weeks back in my 7 Swedish Summer Tunes post because it’s a staple for carefree summertime listening. Read the opening verse first below and then click the video to sing along in skånska! Pay attention to the way the “a” in dag and jag is swapped for an “auo” sound.

Oh boy!
Vilket vackert väder, solen skiner idag
Oh boy!
Inga tunga kläder behövs, och det gillar jag
Så upp och hoppa, det är sol idag
Och en så’n dag kan man inte ligga och dra
Nej, lämna idet och häng med mig ut
Då sommar’n kommer, nu är vintern slut


Twangy isn’t it? What did you think of the exquisite example of skånska in “Oh boy!”? For more Swedish music, check the first post of every month! 

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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.