THE SWINGLES – FOLKLORE
track by track
The Undutiful Daughter (feat. Twelfth Day) – England
We found this heartbreaking story in the library of Cecil Sharp House. Collected in Devon by the Victorian folklorist Sabine Baring-Gould, it’s one of many ballads where a young woman meets a tragic end at the hands of a cruel and superstitious sailor. This version, however, has never been recorded until now. We found the perfect collaborators to play the title role: the mesmerising Scottish folk duo Twelfth Day. Their unearthly vocal blend and impassioned fiddle and harp playing took the piece into another dimension.
Lovers’ Desire – Afghanistan
Ed became obsessed with this Afghan tune after hearing a version by Michael Chorney on Anaïs Mitchell’s “Hadestown” record, but its origins lie in the Hindustani classical music tradition of Kabul Province. We connected with this melody immediately, and throughout the recording process it was almost constantly stuck in our heads. As the title suggests, it’s a full-throated and joyful celebration of love.
Bonas Dies, Comare – Sardinia
We’d been looking for an Italian folk song to include on the record, but struggling to find one that really spoke to us – until a workshop we were leading at a festival in Italy. Our friend Sabrina stood up and sang this Sardinian tune, which she’d learned from her friend’s grandmother, and we knew we’d found the one. The lyric is a 19th-century riddle in Logudorese dialect. A man marries a widow who has a son from her previous marriage. The son marries the man’s mother. The widow and the man have a baby boy. We find the man’s mother cradling the new baby, who is her grandchild and her brother-in-law at the same time. Despite all this confusion, the characters are connected by a love that’s pure and true.
Ili-Ili Tulog Anay – Philippines
The kindness we were shown a trip to the Philippines made it one of our favourite tours ever. For our concerts there we learned this Ilonggo lullaby, arranged for us by Ily Matthew Maniano. The words are simple – hush, little one, your mother has gone to buy bread – but the music resonated with us on a deep level. When we decided to sing it again at our festival in London, the strength of the audience response effectively sparked this whole album project. As we’ve performed this song around the world, it’s been moving to meet people of Filipino origin who remember their mothers or grandmothers singing it to them, reminding us how closely music intertwines with memory and our sense of who we are.
Unmade - original
The old-world intimacy of the handwritten letter was the starting point for this original by Ed. But it speaks to a timeless worry – that a relationship might be just a few ill-chosen words away from ending. The music reflects that mixture of old and new too, with influences from Celtic folk and bluegrass, but within a contemporary sound world.
Nem Às Paredes Confesso – Portugal
This song originates in the Portuguese Fado tradition. Typically, Fado deals with dramatic tales of woe and heartbreak, but we took our cue from the secretive lyric and decided on a more intimate setting. With Jo’s Portuguese roots, she couldn’t wait to explore it. The protagonist of the song says that she will never reveal who the object of her affections is – not even to the walls. No matter how much you beg, plead or protest, this is a secret that she will never confess.
Mo Li Hua – China
We wanted find the perfect encore for our 2016 tour to China, and Jo was entranced by the innocence and sweetness of this well loved folk song. Western listeners may recognise the melody from Puccini’s opera Turandot, but Mo Li Hua or “Little Jasmine Flower” dates back to the 18th century. The lyrics describe the beauty of the flower and the custom of giving it to the one you love. Singing this in China, especially the moment when audiences recognised the song, was a magical experience for us.
Bučimiš (feat. Trichy Sankaran) – Bulgaria/India
We had been searching for a while for a tune that could be a vehicle for improvisation and scratch our itch for a Pat Metheny-style scorcher. Fast, furious and with fifteen beats to the bar, this Bulgarian dance (whose title translates as “hemlock”) seemed the perfect canvas to layer up with soaring harmonies and rhythmic interplay. We decided to go all out and invite the great south Indian master drummer Dr. Trichy Sankaran to feature on kanjira and mrdangam, making for a tasty Bulgarian-Indian fusion.
Nochen'ka – Russia
As the days grew shorter and winter came closer, we wanted a Russian song that painted the atmosphere of their deep, crisp winters. Our dear friend Helena suggested this beautiful traditional song. The singer laments, asking the dark night who can relieve his loneliness. He says he has no mother, no father, and his love doesn’t want him around. This obviously needed to be a low bass solo.
Malaika – Tanzania/Kenya
Clare grew up in Kenya, so finding a song from East Africa was a must for this album. Written in the 1940s, this Swahili song is famous all over Africa, and describes a traditional story: boy meets girl, falls in love, but cannot raise the dowry to marry her. He calls her “Malaika”, which means “my angel”. At first he talks about how much he loves her, and wants to marry her, referring to her in the second verse as “Kidege” (“little bird”). In the final verse he laments that he doesn’t have the money to marry his love.
Sinä Täydennät Minut - original
After spending her honeymoon in Finland Sara was inspired to write this piece, whose title means “you complete me”. Imagine a world where the sun only surfaces for a few hours a day and even then only shows its sunset colours. After racing across frozen lakes behind a pack of huskies, and fishing through holes in the thick dark ice, you huddle by the fireside and hear the legend of an arctic fox who ran so quickly across the snow that his tail caused sparks to fly into the night sky, creating the Aurora Borealis.
Hard Times Come Again No More – USA
Stephen Foster’s parlour song has been a favourite of Jon’s for years. The tune was originally written in 1854 and became popular during the American Civil War. It is a plea for unity when all we can see are differences, and although it’s an old song, the message rings true now more than ever. We would like to dedicate this arrangement to anyone experiencing hardship and urge those that are more fortunate to lend a helping hand.