Weird Things we Love: Humppa

Let me start out by saying I don’t necessarily love humppa; I just discovered it – or rather, my daughter did – a few days ago. But apparently it’s pretty popular in Europe, especially Germany, Poland, Austria, and of course Finland, where it originated. My daughter ran across it while researching a school project on Finland, and spent many hours getting sidetracked by humppa.

Finnish Humppa-Band Eläkeläiset on stage

What is humppa? It’s music. Or dance. Or both! Set to a very fast 220-260 beats per minute, the music is sort of a cross between jazz and foxtrot. My daughter describes it as “extreme polka,” which fits better IMO. Think Weird Al Yankovic, and you’ll come pretty close to Eläkeläiset, Finland’s popular humppa band.

The dances came first, around the turn of the twentieth century. There are three primary styles: one-step, two-step, and one that resembles a limping walk. The name “humppa” wasn’t coined until the 1950’s, and is assumed to be based on the the oompah sound of the tuba in some German folk music.

Humppa pretty much died out after that, until Eläkeläiset revived it in the early 90s with humppa versions of popular heavy metal songs. This is as weird as it sounds, and it’s hilarious!

Here is “Humppalakein,” Eläkeläiset’s version of “Breaking the Law,” (which some YouTube user put to the original Judas Priest video – LOL!):


It gets better: Black Sabbath, anyone? In the video, you can barely pick out the original melody, but I’m LOL watching this to Ozzy singing!

They’ve done covers of Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Kiss, Queen, and more. According to my daughter, the lyrics aren’t translations of the original English lyrics, either – they’re not even close! She says they mostly translate to things about humppa dancing, the music itself, or drinking. Heavily. (I’m not sure where she found this, or I’d link.) The concerts and festivals sound like quite the experience, too – the band often passes out vodka, to anyone who wants it! (And who doesn’t?)

Their website is pretty amusing, too. My favorite is the “Hidden Alcohol” page, complete with undecipherable (to me, at least) maps. Apparently, the band leaves buried treasure in many of the cities where they play – bottles of vodka! Can you imagine that in the U.S.? Me either.

So have you found any weird music you (or someone) love lately? I’d love to hear from you! What do you think of humppa? If you had a chance to see Eläkeläiset perform, would you go? I think I would, just to watch the audience! But I’d stay off to the side, so as not to get danced over.

Eläkeläiset photo by Roger Zenner, via Wikipedia, Creative Commons license

12 Responses to \

  1. How about Mariachi polka? I bought a cheap Mexican Christmas CD looking for a Spanish flair in my Christmas carols. Instead I got Frosty the Snowman as Mariachi polka. Talk about weird! It does grow on you though, but only for short periods of listening. Apparently, Mariachi is a Northern Mexican folk music, directly derived from German polka bands, which Mexicans heard in the 19th century. A lot of the Mariachi instruments and costuming came from the Germans too, except for the huge somberos. That’s a purely Mexican touch. I’ve included some links your readers might find interesting. Hope the links work as I’ve never done this on a blog comment before.

  2. Frosty in Mexican Polka? That must be a catchy one! LOL! Thanks for sharing your links, too. They did make your comment go into moderation, but that’s no problem. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  3. Okay, that was pretty funny. I can totally see my daughter dancing around a room to that stuff. The things people do! LOL Thanks for entertaining me. 😀

  4. LOL Debra, mine too – and she’s 16! I have had the “Breakin’ the Law” one stuck in my head all day too.

  5. We learn something new everyday! I’ve heard of Humppa, but I thought it was an expression of some kind! Very funny! I’m sure my youngest, who never stops moving, would have a great time jumping around to it.

    BTW, thanks so much for that great rating on Goodreads–that made my day:). I’m currently having a good time reading Time’s Enemy!

  6. My husband loves Japanese techno pop for some reason unbeknownst to me 🙂 I don’t generally like techno or music where I can’t understand the lyrics, but occasionally one of the songs he’ll be playing does appeal to me because of the beat. Go figure. Sometimes the weird stuff ends up being the most fun 🙂

  7. LOL Maria, I learned something too! 🙂 And you’re welcome on the rating – much deserved! I’m planning to review The Governor’s Sons when I get a chance, and recommended it to a friend today!

    Marcy, I love techno music, and yes, some I can’t understand! LOL! The beat is addicting. I like it better when I do understand the lyrics, though. 🙂

  8. Coleen, great idea! I bet those European fans burn off tons of calories dancing at the concerts and festivals. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. I found humppa as well. I listen to a lot of folk metal, one band from Russia: Troll Bends Fir has a song called Humppa Is My Neighbour. Sung in three different languages, which makes it fun to listen to as well.

    It is a lot of fun to dance to. 🙂