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