The World Weird Web: Rocking in Latin

Why “Love Me Tender” When You Could “Tendere Me Ama”?

Gregorian Chants are probably the only things most people would think of in the context of music sung in Latin. Narrow-minded as this view might be, it was more or less accurate until 1993. In that auspicious year, a professor of literature at the unpronounceable University of Jyv¤skyl¤ in Finland launched his musical career by releasing a record of Finnish tango music with a twist.

Dr. Jukka Ammondt, with the assistance of a fellow scholar, translated the lyrics to Finland’s most popular tangos. The resulting album, Tango Triste Finnicum, contains what his website describes as “the most beautiful Finnish tangos,” which have been lovingly rendered into - what else? - Latin. One assumes he chose to do this because those world-famous Finnish tangos were not sufficiently bizarre on their own.

Jukka Ammondt

But the intrepid Ammondt didn’t stop there. Encouraged by his success with Tango Triste Finnicum, for which he received a medal from the Pope, Dr. Ammondt took the next logical step, and in 1995 released The Legend Lives Forever in Latin, a compilation of Latin translations of popular tunes sung originally by the King.

For anyone who’s momentarily staggered, let me repeat myself: recordings of Elvis Presley songs are now available sung in the Latin language by a Finnish professor of literature. And he’s quite serious.

The Legend Lives Forever in Latin, the first of two translated Elvis releases, features such favorites as “Non adamare non possum / Can’t Help Falling in Love”, “Tedere me ama / Love Me Tender”, and “Cor ligneaum / Wooden Heart.” Dr. Ammondt, who was an Elvis fan as a young man, has loved these songs his whole life - and now, he has shared them with the world in a unique way.

A way that only, perhaps, 0.1 percent of that world can understand - unless one grants that music truly is the universal language, whether sung in Latin or not.

Of course, while Latin may be a language understood by few and spoken by fewer - and sung by almost none - there are other languages even more obscure. Dr. Ammondt made it his mission to find them, and in 2001 he released Three Songs in Sumerian. One of the eponymous three songs is another Elvis favorite, “Blue Suede Shoes,” which can now be heard as it has - guaranteed - never been heard before.

All of Dr. Ammondt’s records, including Rocking in Latin (a second volume of Elvis favorites, released in 1997) can be purchased on his website. Excerpts from some of the songs from The Legend Lives Forever in Latin can be heard on VH1’s website.

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