Celebrate Samhain with these six spooky folk songs

Photo of Siberian band Nytt-Land
Nytt-Land – a primal and immersive dive into the frosty plains of ancient Siberia.

Samhain is a Celtic festival marking the beginning of winter – it literally means ‘summers end’. It’s the origin of Halloween and the time when the veil between this world and the next is thinnest. So whether you’re carving pumpkins or summoning the dead, WHAT A TUNE has the ideal soundtrack to set the mood. (Full playlist at the bottom of the page).

Kati Rán SUURIN

Kati Rán is a Dutch Pagan folk singer and she borrows these unsettling text from Finnish lore: it translates to “I am the greatest wolf/ A wolf to eat them/ Others will be sheep under the bench.” So, if you’re looking for a hype song before heading out, this is the one. The primordial sound of Kati Rán’s music comes from historic folk instruments, such as the Swedish nyckelharpa (similar to a fiddle), hammered dulcimer (percussion-stringed instrument), Norwegian kraviklyra (lyre), bone flutes and skin-drums. Experimental folk act HEILUNG, also lend their talents to the track.

Eivør Trøllabundin

Whispers, clicks, gentle drumming and plenty of space for Eivør’s glacial voice to shine through, this song is a mystical and enchanting delight. Written in her native language Faroese, she sings about magic: “The wizard has enchanted me/ Spellbound deep in my soul.” 

Laboratorium Pieśni Sztoj pa moru (Што й па мору)

Laboratorium Pieśni is a group of female singers from Poland who perform traditional polyphony accompanied by a shaman drum. Their rendition of this traditional song is haunting and utterly enthralling. The weaving melodies and powerful a cappella voices are raw, evocative and deeply affecting. I’m honestly obsessed with this song. If you were looking for a sign to dance barefoot in a moonlit forest, this Slavic folk song is it.

Daemonia Nymph Daemonos

The opening ritualistic drumming and the thrumming sounds of the lyre and the pandoura (lute) transport us back in time to a wild dance in Athens thousands of years ago. Their songs are written in Ancient Greek and are based on Orphic and Homeric hymns, and Sappho’s poems about Zeus and the Hekate (Goddess of witchcraft). Perhaps you’ll also recognise the voices from the soundtrack to the game Halo 4.

NYTT LAND U-Gra

This song a primal and immersive dive into the frosty plains of ancient Siberia, more specifically “Ugra”, Ugorian land. The Siberian duo draw their inspiration from the ancient legend of the native tribe Khanty and their guardian spirits. In U-Gra, the Tuvan throat chanting and shamanic drumming throughout coupled with the yearning sounds of the talharpa (viking violin) is hypnotic and trance-inducing. In the final part, the shaman asks the tribe to be kind to people and to their ancestral land.

Sowulo SAMHAIN 

It’s literally called Samhain, this haunting track can’t not be on your Halloween playlist. Brainchild of Dutch multi-instrumentalist Faber Horbach, Sowulo comes from the word ‘Sol’ and it’s the name of a rune representing ‘Sun’. It’s a purely instrumental track, ideal to set the vibe, complete with crow cawing and spooky bells. The rousing nyckelharpa-driven song Wulfiga, written in Anglo Saxon, is also pretty good.

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