How often do you find someone who listens to both Russian folk metal bands and Hasidic vocalists?
Not often, I would guess.
Music, just like clothing, goes in and out of fashion quickly.
And just like my fashion sense, my taste in music isn’t common.
My introduction to music started at a very young age when my father would play classical music loudly in the car.
Four-year-old me didn’t like loud sounds of any sort, but I learned to like classical music after my father lowered the volume. From then on, I shared similar tastes in music with my father.
Throughout middle school, I transferred all of his old rock albums, including the Beatles, the Who and the Kinks, onto my iPod.
But with the discovery of the app Pandora, a whole new world of music opened to me. Thanks to Pandora, my parents must endure the metal growls of Masha “Scream” Arkhipova, who fronts the Russian folk metal band Arkona.
But my tastes aren’t confined to the headbanging growling, guitar riffs and bagpipes of Arkona.
I also enjoy the melodic vocals of Hasidic singer Motty Steinmetz, though he and Masha Scream are at opposite ends of the vocal spectrum.
Steinmetz, unlike Arkona, was found through YouTube while listening to the Barry Sisters. Who doesn’t like to throw back to Yiddish melodies from their grandparents’ time?
As for folk metal, this genre was discovered through a slow progression of old rock, to modern rock such as Three Days Grace or Disturbed, to symphonic metal such as Nightwish or Epica – all on Pandora.
I’m not sure what drew me to folk metal. It surely wasn’t their lyrics because most of the bands sing in their mother tongue.
Perhaps it was their use of folk instruments, such as bagpipes and flutes, to create a medieval sound, combined with the modern sounds of metal.
Honestly, Scandinavian folk metal can only be described as if the Vikings, along with Odin himself, were able to create metal music.
As for symphonic metal, I’ve always appreciated classical music, and perhaps listening to it at a loud volume contributed to the love of metal. This symphonic style mixed with metal pleased my ears. So I have listened to it ever since.
I have always listened to music for the melody rather than the lyrics.
If I’m curious about the lyrics to songs I’ve discovered, I look up a translation on the Internet.
From my “research,” I have found that most of these bands sing about their countries’ ancient folklore, rightfully naming their genre “folk metal.”
Other forms of folk metal take traditional songs and turn them into metal. The Israeli-Russian group Gevolt takes traditional Yiddish songs and turns them into metal.
The Barry Sisters would probably say “Oy Gevalt!” if they heard Gevolt’s metal rendition of “Bei Mir Bistu Sheyn.”
Even though most people probably haven’t heard of the genres of folk or symphonic metal, more people would probably enjoy these genres if they took a listen.
Just as I learned to appreciate my father’s music, he has learned to appreciate mine. Now we sing in the car together to metal versions of old Yiddish songs, Hasidic vocalists and Viking metal!
—By Nicole Wolkov