Aniara – Helen and Kleerup

Helen Sjöholm
Helen Sjöholm

Spotify began operation in Australia today. Thank goodness. If the name’s not familiar, Spotify is a music-streaming service which began life in Sweden a few years ago, and which is now available in over a dozen countries worldwide. In short, it gives you the capacity to search for and listen to practically anything that’s ever been commercially released. You can either put up with the occasional ad, or choose the paid service, without ads, and which also gives you access on your mobile. I signed up when I visited Sweden last year, and just as well, since you now need a Facebook account to access the service, it seems.

Anyway, the great thing about Spotify in Australia is that it gives you access to loads and loads of Swedish music of all types, and so tonight I spent an hour or so searching for the most obscure Swedish musical references to see how good it was. Although there are some inexplicable absences, there’s some pretty amazing stuff to be found. And my biggest discovery, thanks to Spotify is a new album by Andreas Kleerup called, “Aniara”.

In stark contrast to his previous solo CD which contained loads of pop and dance songs, this is a theatrical, dramatic work. Best of all, the album features the voice of Helen Sjoholm, a Swedish singer with an amazing voice who I’ve seen perform on stage a few times. Helen has a wonderful, clear voice, with a great sense of emotion and strength, and so even if you don’t understand Swedish, you can still kind of follow that what she sings about is pretty important.

When you listen to Aniara, there’s no doubt that what Helen has to say is worth listening to. By way of background, thank goodness for Wikipedia, I’ve discovered Aniara was a science fiction poem written by the Swedish Nobel laureate Harry Martinson. There was previously an opera based on the poem, but a couple of years ago, the Stockholm City Theatre commissioned a new work featuring the talents of Andreas Kleerup, Carl Bagge and Helen Sjöholm. According to a press release I found, “Aniara, directed by Lars Rudolfsson, premiered at the Stockholm City Theatre in autumn 2010 and sold out all 40 performances. The set, in which Helen Sjöholm, Claire Wikholm, Dan Ekborg, Helge Skoog and Sven Wollter all had supporting roles, received rave reviews and Kleerups music praised in the media. The album features vocals by Helen Sjöholm, instrumental music of Andreas Kleerup and Carl Bagge and monologues performed by Sven Wollter, Claire Wikholm, Dan Ekborg and Helge Skoog.”

According to Wikipedia, the “poem consists of 103 cantos and relates the tragedy of a space ship which, originally bound for Mars with a cargo of colonists from the ravaged Earth, after an accident is ejected from the solar system and into an existential struggle.”

As you might expect the work is entirely in Swedish, and the musical style is not exactly “show tunes”, but I’ve spent the night absolutely mesmerised by it.

Sydney Festival – come on, bring it on :)

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