This is Heilung, a collective of SUPER hardcore folk music musicians who met and bonded at a Viking reenactment society. They’ve just recorded their version of “Hymn to Nikkal” (also known as “Hurrian Hymn No. 6”), the oldest known song to have been transcribed into some kind of musical notation. Composed about 3,400 years ago in ancient Babylon (now northern Syria), it was preserved on clay tablets.
The song itself offers praise to Nikkal, the wife of a moon god. Since it was discovered in the 1950s and published in 1968, there has been much debate over how the song should be performed. For example, what, exactly was a “Babylonian lyre?” Obviously a stringed instrument of some kind, but how? What did it sound like? And how should it be sung? Archeologists still aren’t clear on what the Hurrian language sounded like.
The Heilung have given it a go for their upcoming third album, Drif. And to hedge their bets, they’re releasing five different versions from five different people. “We’ll leave the scientific battle to scientists,” says Christopher Juul, the group’s instrumentalist and producer.
Spooky stuff, this.