I had a bit of a breakthrough at Swedish class tonight. I normally loathe grammar, but I quite enjoyed the exercise we did tonight. Best of all? I think I actually understood the principles behind what we learned, and can possibly even apply them in real life. That’s a real breakthrough, let me tell you.
To “celebrate”, I came home and put on a CD which Grant bought back from Stockholm for me, called “Sthlms Liv”. It’s a collection of mostly jazz songs from the twentieth century with lyrics about or inspired by life in Stockholm. There’s also an accompanying booklet which explains in both English and Swedish a little of the background to the songs, and features some wonderful photographs mostly from the 1950s and 1960s which demonstrate how little/how much Stockholm has changed.
I find it fascinating how much the Swedes sing about their capital city. Although we have lots of songs about Sydney – including reasonably overt lyrics and titles – the Swedes seem to take it to a higher level. For example, one of the most popular television shows has as it’s theme song a track called “Stockholm i mitt hjärta” (Stockholm in my heart).
As I looked through the track list, I recognised a couple of tunes instantly. There’s “Sakta vi gå genom stan” (Slowly we walk through the town) which is actualy a Swedish translation of “Walking My Baby Back Home” by jazz-legend Monica Zetterlund and “Min egen stad” (My own town) by former ABBA member, Anni-Frid Lyngstad. So I guess when I put on the CD I was half-expecting a bit of a nostalgia trip. Not so, it’s an album full of wonderful surprises.
That said, there are quite a few songs which have that nostalgic feel. And I can imagine lots of older Swedes would have bought the CD purely for its nostalgic value. “Sakta vi gå genom stan”, for example, is a great song, sung well…
But the CD is much more than that. It’s a genuinely wonderful collection I suspect you coud enjoy without any Swedish language skills. Calling it a jazz collection is both correct and incorrect. There’s certainly a “jazz feel” to the CD, but in a very broad sense with a range of musical genres from “tango” to “beat poetry”.
The first song which really stood out for me was “Jag vill ha en gondol” by Zarah Leander. It’s got a wonderful “tango” feel about it, and is sung in a very dramatic style.
I was also transfixed by a piece called “Stockholmsmelodi” by Sven-Bertil Taube. It’s a piece which opens again, quite dramatically, with what sounds like a bit of a mad-man ranting on the sidewalk. The level of Swedish is too complicated for me to understand instantly, and so I’m going to have to do a bit of research and translate to see if he’s as mad as he sounds.
There’s also some wonderfully relaxing, evocative pieces including “The Midnight Sun Never Sets” by Quincy Jones and “Var blev ni av” by Freddie Wadling.
But the one track I’ve been playing over and over again is called “En självbiografi” by Sonja Åkesson. To a “beat poetry” style jazz backing, it’s the story of a “suburban housewife” talking about her life. Again, I’m going to need to translate this one to get a better feel for it, but it’s a piece which has really captured my attention simply because of the instrumentation and the lyrical presentation.
So yeah, what a great night…