North Park University is home to the proud Vikings and the Cupola. In the morning we have breakfast at Tre Kronor, and in the afternoon we take Fika. Swedish culture is ingrained into North Park life as much as the degrees students earn each May. North Park was founded in 1890 by Swedish immigrants and began Americanizing at the start of World War I when the campus quit using the Swedish language.
North Park has since been a welcoming place for people of all ethnic backgrounds, but we still cling to our Swedish heritage. It is represented in the names of our buildings and the ceremonies we celebrate. But one aspect of all that is Swedish which is little known at North Park is the tradition of Kulning. An ancient tradition taking place in the mountains and valleys of the Swedish countryside, Kulning is a unique herding call used to call the cattle home at the end of a grazing day.
I recently stumbled upon Kulning by scrolling through my recommended videos on Youtube. I clicked on the video called “Kulning - Ancient Swedish Herdingcall” by channel “Jonna Jinton,” and was immediately shocked by just how mesmerizing it was. The woman’s song was eerily beautiful with its long notes and pitch changes that echoed across the landscape. Paired with the backdrop of the Swedish countryside, the melody and visuals had a fairytale essence. The cherry on top was the herd of cattle that slowly made their way over to the singing woman and lined up to hear her song. I had to dive a little deeper into this mysterious phenomenon.
Kulning is a hauntingly beautiful part of Swedish farming culture. It is predominantly performed by women whose higher pitches carry the sound farther. The mountains of Scandinavia echo the song miles away to reach the far-grazing cows. The song itself is a mix of vocal notes which the singer changes to call attention to the herd. No two songs are alike, each singer has their own song used to call a specific group of cows.
North Park is a place where tradition meets modernity in the Swedish story. As we learn more about our institutional past, we can further observe and respect our tradition - and maybe you’ll be able to hear some Kulning calling North Parkers to class once in a while.