A warm “Hejsan” from Sweden, where spring has definitely sprung!
I’m Derek Robertson writing from Malmö!
As you might have seen from the news, Sweden is one of the few countries in the Western world yet to implement a lockdown or quarantine – shops, restaurants, and schools remain open, public transport is still running, and while people are being careful, in many places life is continuing somewhat normally. It is surreal to say the least.
Easter is nearly upon us, a time when many Swedes would escape to the countryside with their families (not much travelling will be happening now though). Herring, smoked salmon, and schnapps are consumed in great quantities, while kids dress up as Easter witches – påskkäring – and go from house to house collecting sweets. Even shops decorate, with their store fronts covered in påskris – spring branches topped with colourful feathers.
Here, as in other countries, artists and cultural institutions are turning to the internet to entertain and reach fans. Indie superstar Jens Lekman has found an even more ingenious way of beating isolation – personal concerts via Skype to fans. Unable to tour across the US, he has instead, for one hour every day, randomly call people who have signed up, play them one song, and then move on to the next fan. The quarantine songs are available on Facebook.
The Royal Opera in Stockholm launched its digital channel Operan early, which shows both live streams and archived concerts; the Malmö Symphony Orchestra, and famed local rock venue KB’s, have both done something similar. Melodiefestivalen, the six-week TV competition held to choose Sweden’s Eurovision entry, was won by soul and gospel group The Mamas, with the song ‘Move’; the other finalist songs are seemingly on constant rotation in shops and on the radio.
And there’s still plenty of great new music from all over Europe to discover! This week on Europavox we’ve featured the “bisexual vegan punks” Joe & The Shitboys – from the Faroe Islands no less – the retro-futuristic industrial art-punk of Greek duo Mechanimal, and the coming-of-age bedroom pop of Arlo Parks, the poet laureate for disillusioned digital natives. There’s also the daring electro-fado of Lina_Raül Refree, a Portugese duo who have updated the genre with spectral analogue synths and piano, and the psychedelic funk-rock of Croatian trio Nemanja, truly international party music to keep our spirits high.
With talk of lockdowns being eased later this month across Europe, there’s hope that some semblance of normality will return sooner rather than later.
Until then, stay safe – and turn the music up!