Jamaican Music Music Interviews

Reggae Interview Series: Reggae Music In Sweden

Written by Xavier Murphy

Kalle Baah is The Swedish Kings Of Reggae. The band started in a little town named Skärblacka in Sweden in the mid 70’s and has endured the test of time. Below is an interview with band member Peter Gerdin.

Question: What is the reggae scene like there?

Well, locally we have since the late seventies / early eighties, had lots of reggae and performing acts in the area where we live. Meaning “Skärblacka”, once known as the Kingston of Sweden.

Talking Sweden-wise then, well during the last 5 or 6 years the reggae scene have expanded a lot. Not since Bob Marleys days have we heard so much reggae on the Radio and enjoyed so many big events. The summer of -05 there was at least three or four larger festivals.

Question: How about the ska scene?

Ska seems more of a limited occurrence here, like an integrated part of the wider reggae scene. Many reggae bands have some ska or rock steady songs on their repertoire as well.

We also have the Swedish site skawars.nu which shows that the ska still lives on, but they also deal with an equal amount of reggae, dancehall and rock-steady.

Question: What first drew your attention to Reggae?

It comes like in three.

1. There was a reggae wave sweeping over the whole country in the late 70’s, y’know Bob Marley still holds the record attendance from 1980 at Gröna Lund amusement park in Stockholm. I got my first reggae record (from my aunt) around that time. All this lead to..

2. The teenagers in Skärblacka started wearing Marley pins, shirts and other reggae related stuff. One lady who had a stitching machine made sure that any kid could get a red, gold and green cap. I and my friends as boys age 11-12, of course picked up the new thing.

Local bands started to play reggae in the community, the most popular one was (and still is) called Kalle Baah. This lead to..

3. Inspired from the above mentioned, I and my friends started a band as well, named Under Våren (eng. “During the spring”). Good thing the music teacher at school had managed to set up a whole set of instruments, and we where allowed to use these after school time, with an adult present that was.

Question: What was the first Reggae song you ever heard?

I don’t remember actually. The Marley album I got from my aunt was from Marleys mid 60’s so you cannot say it was reggae music, more like ska/soul. I also got this tape from a friend, it was an Island-collection with Bobs “Is this love” pon it, amongst other artists. I loved that tape.

Question: Who and what are your influences?

I take this as a Q to me in person. If you wanna check the band it would take a novel to answer, since we are very different personalities, listening to different kinds music and so forth.

Anyway, I myself still love many styles. Bob, Peter and Bunny of course, Israel Vibration (my favorite vibe – “Apple” gone solo though), The Gladiators (especially the Clinton Fearon songs), Big youth, Gregory, Freddy McGregor, Third World, Ini Kamoze, The Meditations, Mighty Diamonds, The Twinkle Brothers ..my God I could go on forever.

Some more recently forwarded artists I like are Luciano, Garnett Silk, Ghost, Tanya Stephens and Terry Linen (jus’ love the song “Counting Hours”).

These are musical influences. Lyrically, the vibes at the moment comes from my everyday life.

Question: What style of reggae is played often in your country? [Dancehall, Lovers

Rock, Conscious etc.] What style do the majority of fans seem to prefer?

As I mentioned before, classic reggae, preferably what is considered as roots reggae. That’s what ppl want to hear. Dancehall is very popular at the clubs in the bigger cities and they are trying to push it on the radio. I guess it’s because they (the radio channels) want to be “in” and since they push it on the international market, they think they’d better play it as well. “Lovers” ..it’s nice and necessary and of course played by the reggae-dj’s.

Question: Was the fact that Reggae is English and Patois a barrier?

No, not really. It was a challenge! ..an’ we manage!

Question: Is Reggae mainstream and is it played on the radio there? Videos on TV?

Now a days they play nuff reggae on the radio, use it widely in commercial adds on TV etc. Yeah, but mainstream? ..no! Kind of European-American-r’n’b stuff and pop rules the masses!

Question: How is Reggae influencing your culture?Depends on your point of view! A culture don’t change overnight and Swedish culture have been formed through thousands of years. What I do think is that many reggae artists plant seeds, making youth in our scientific age and culture start thinking about God. The Swedish church and communions have failed for ages in doing that. I do not say that the Swedish youth turning Rasta, but faith in something else than just earthly things might turn out to be an option.

Question: If someone traveled to visit your home and wanted to hear reggae music, what would they have do?If the person want to go to a club, then Stockholm is the place. Trinity Sound System is one of the best known systems in Sweden (http://www.trinity-sound.com). If a live performance is wanted, then check out the websites of the Swedish bands for shows, or check out http://www.maestroentertainment.com which is one of the big promoters here.

 

Question: How would you describe your country’s reggae sound and development?

The sound differs. Right now, thanks to all these new bands, the sound is no longer going in one direction but several, which is nice.

We have our style, other bands and musicians have their style. The heavier weight sound seems to rule though.

One thing I’ve noticed is that.. I don’t know if it’s due to time shortage or whatever, but personally I think that some (maybe we too sometimes) don’t put in enough fantasy in the music, like unexpected hardly hearable melodies or sounds that treally makes you go “–wHAt??”

Anyway, the bands and what comes out on cd are really good. Unfortunately the national media have missed (and are continuously missing) the whole thing. On the other hand, maybe that’s what keeps us going, haha!

 

Question: What are some of the names of the popular local artist? Who would be the top 5 artists?

I don’t know “top 5” but here’s some top ones: Peps Persson, Kalle Baah, Svenska Akademien, Governor Andy, Daddy Boastin, Rootvälta

 

 

Question: Who is your favorite Reggae Artist?

Whoever make me feel that same feeling like when someone tickles your neck. Music can do the very same thing!

 

Question: Where do you think Reggae will be in 10 years time? And in Your country?

I really hope that worldwide artists/producers and especially Jamaican dito, will get to overstand that the people want the real musicians and backing bands back! Computers are nice, tight and cheep in the long run but hopelessly soulless. Of course.. Ragga and such is getting a rougher sound that way, but now I’m talking reggae in general.

Concerning Sweden and the Swedes I just hope for the TV and radio channels to wake up!

 

Question: Do you think there is anything preventing Reggae from flourishing for you

and your fellow artists there?

No, a we rule! This flower don’t seem to be needing that much nourishment to flourish!

 

Question: How are you involved in Reggae?

Keyboardist/songwriter/vocalist in the band Kalle Baah

 

Question: In some countries you might see people wearing a Jamaican-style hat with fake dreadlocks attached when they attend reggae concerts and other events. Do you see anything that you see in your country?Well, you might find it. But it’s very very rare!

 

Question: Have you ever been to Jamaica?Yea, many times!

 

Question: Do you have many/any Jamaican people living there?

Yes, I have good good friends there.

 

Question: Do you eat Jamaican food? Like what?

It’s not that easy to find where I live. I grow Jamaican chili/habanero and make my own hot vinegar, sometimes I make Jamaican jerk with rice and peas ..and hey, I’ve invented a substitute for ackee an’ salt fish, using scrambled eggs for ackee and salt anchovies for salt fish. Fry them together with fresh chili-vinegar and black pepper, serve for weekend breakfast with dumplins. A Jamaican maybe would a laff so till, but this dish is not far from the original..fi real!

 

Special thanks to Kalle Baah. You can visit their site at http://www.kallebaah.com

About the author

Xavier Murphy