Text by Matthew Lee
A year ago, the northern Swedish village of Korpilombolo barely registered on Google. But a band claiming to hail from this remotest of outposts has given it a strange new fame. The members of Goat claim that many centuries ago a travelling witch doctor introduced Korpilombolo’s inhabitants to voodoo, and a hypnotic trance-like music has been played by villagers ever since.
This may be nonsense, but Goat’s music is certainly otherworldly – a wild, joyous hybrid of psych, Kraut and Afrobeat that owes as much to Fela Kuti and Can as it does to Swedish prog and folk. Their debut album, World Music, was released late last year to widespread acclaim, and this summer they’re playing Roskilde, Øyafestivalen, Way Out West and Glastonbury.
The band performs in masks and avoids real names, so we ask “Al” a simple first question – what is Goat? “We are are sons and daughters of the great Mikka Mylenpäärvi and the oracle Ogdou,” he replies, adding two more un-Googleable terms to the mystery. “We prosper of the earth, rejoice and sing praise to our ancestors. We meditate, make music together and spend time with our families in the deepest love and togetherness.”
Right. According to Al, Goat has “around 100 members” spread between Korpilombolo and Gothenburg, and it’s a “musical tradition formed in a commune, not a band”. While some members of this collective play live and make records, the real Goat “is the happiness of understanding the importance of collectiveness and of sharing our lives and beliefs.”
While World Music is Goat’s official debut, Al claims incarnations of the band have been recording music for decades – members of the current Goat have parents who were in earlier Goats. “We have many older recordings and we might release some if we get permission from the highest council,” says Al, who refuses to answer questions on voodoo – “some older practitioners are afraid of all the attention” – but will discuss their reasons for wearing masks: “We wear ritual robes to stay anonymous and shed our individualities.” But is it all codswallop? “You can believe whatever you want,” says Al. The mystery – and the music – continues.