In honour of yesterday’s May Day, I thought I’d share with you a few examples of Swedish political songs and bands.
The very first song that entered my mind was Ebba Grön‘s very famous Staten & Kapitalet (really a cover version but that was never the case in my young mind), about “how the government (staten) and the privately owned corporations (kapitalet) control and enslave the working classes” (I couldn’t put it any simpler than Wikipedia had).
Ebba, formed in -77, was one of Sweden’s seminal punk bands and one of my favourite groups when I was a teenager (in the 90s). I used to sit in Humlegården, a park in central Stockholm, with my best friend (and future bandmate) Maria, when we were maybe 14, and we’d listen to her brother’s old discarded Ebba Grön cassettes on a tape recorder and smoke cigarettes.
It was wonderful.
Anyways, I asked my Twitter followers to get involved in this too and they were so helpful that I’ve been stuck on youtube pretty much since, wading through old songs and new, good and terrible, stuff I hadn’t heard before and songs I grew up listening to.
There is a lot of political music.
As Marie Bergman once put it “ingen kommer undan politiken“.
No one escapes politics.
In my search I quickly noticed that as for lyrically and party-political songs – the placard ones if you will – 99% of them (that I found or thought of) were by men. The very political 70s “progg” movement for example was pretty male-dominated and even the album Sånger Om Kvinnor (=songs about women), a compilation of battle songs for the Women’s Movement and sung by women, were written by men and all the musicians on the album were male.
So on this list I felt I also wanted to include some of my favourite bands and artists who I find political in other senses, in how they operate, in their beliefs, in which fights they fight – or don’t fight.
Karin Dreijer of Fever Ray and The Knife is a perfect example – with their music they constantly play with gender roles, they run their own label and on their website now The Knife urge people to get involved against the discrimination of Romani people in Europe. But as for writing political lyrics they said (back in 2006) that they felt it didn’t lead to anything, it just made certain opinions trendy for a while. (sorry, source here in Swedish).
So, phew, on that explanatory note – below are a few musical highlights, the tip of a pretty overwhelming iceberg.
And, sadly I must say that in my lifetime I can not remember a time when it’s felt more important to take a stand than it does right now.
Den ena handen vet vad den andra gör, Blå Tåget 1972…
…later covered and renamed Staten & Kapitalet by Ebba Grön in 1980
The New Improved Hypocrisy, The Radio Dept, 2010
Barn Av Vår Tid, Nationalteatern 1977
Pass This On, The Knife, 2003
Stockholm Snett Uppifrån, Vapnet, 2008
I’ve Got U Under My Skin, Neneh Cherry, 1990
Keops Pyramid, Hoola Bandoola band, 1972
The Modern, Frida Hyvönen, 2005
Levande Begravd, Liket Lever, 1979
(…as referenced in the opening lines of Dom Där Jag Kommer Ifrån, Håkan Hellström 2010,
and one of my favourite songs by him).
Then there is of course Mattias Alkberg and The Bear Quartet and everything they’ve ever done.
Oh god, I keep thinking of more things that has to be mentioned…
Hm. I’ll leave you with this…
…Refused Are Fuckin Dead
Plus three more:
Allt Som Är Ditt, Säkert!, 2007
Ingen Så Blå, Parker Lewis feat. Love Antell (from Florence Valentin, some say Sweden’s very own Glasvegas), 2009
Dynamit, Timbuktu feat Peps Persson