Vallåt från Valö
This is a Vallåt från Valö in Uppland. A Vallåt is a special kind of tune in Sweden, which might be called a “pastoral” in English.
In bygone times, Swedish farms were small. In some areas in the summertime the limited acreage was used entirely for food crops and hay to be saved for the winter, while the farm animals were taken up to the hills where they could forage in the open summer pastures. Women on the farms were charged with this responsibility, called “going to vall“. In different parts of the country, the name for these pastures was usually “fäbod” or “säter“.
Music was played in the fäbod, of course, but most often on simple instruments like the cowhorn, birchbark horn, wooden flute, or just sung. A tune in this tradition was a vallåt.
These tunes might be just for passing the time, but there were also many with specific purposes. They would be used to communicate with others with messages such as “We are missing a calf”, “There are strangers approaching”, or “There are wolves in the neighborhood”.
The message with this particular tune was simply a locklåt, or “cow call”.
I first heard this tune played by the iconic fiddler Henry Wallin, brother and fiddle partner of nyckelharpa great Ceylon Wallin. There is a family version of the tune that is simply a polska, but I was very impressed with Henry’s bow work in the Vallät version, presented here.
To the left is a photo of Swedish cows in a summer pasture.
Here is a video of me playing the Vallåt från Valö, as I learned it from Henry Wallin.