Monday, January 21, 2002

Harlig Diktare, Alska Lantagare or How Swedish Can D. Ma Be?

The one with a certain way with words paid me a compliment the other day. Or at least I think it was a compliment. She said that she thought I was more of a misanthrope than a misogynist, which is probably closer to the truth than I care to admit. This same wise word observer also has expressed the belief that I listen to too much sad music and thus loaned me her copy of Lisa Ekdahl's happy sounding 1994 self titled CD.

The key word in that last sentence is "sounding" since Ekdahl sings in her native language, Swedish, and though the music is enchanting, enthralling and bouncy, for all we know she could be singing about killing kitties or a tortuous existence in a suicidal society. But it really doesn't matter since the vibe that arises from Ekdahl's lilting mystical alto soprano voice combined with the jazz driven melodies is nothing but soothing to say the least.

All I know about Swedish music is what I learned from listening to the Cardigans, ABBA and Ace of Base, all three groups that hold a certain fondness in my heart. Ekdahl's music carries a bit more authenticity to it, if only because her pristine vocals and the simple instrumentation contrast with the bombastic synthetic sound of the trio of Nordic super groups.

If there were some type of mathematical formula available to what music I like and why, the ability of a lyric to get through to me would no doubt be the biggest factor. I can always love a song with great words; I find it much more difficult to like a song only because of its melody or some virtuoso solo. Thus it may seem strange that I can't seem to stop listening to a CD that I don't understand a single word of. There's just something swinging and hip that's irresistible. This is rare music that sounds just at home playing in the early morning when chores need to be done, as it does late at night when there is some serious contemplating to be contemplated.

The opening track "Oppna upp ditt fonster" is a nice blend of Ekdahl's voice along with a jaunty soprano saxophone counter melody. There is a Latin feel to the song although for all I know it could be a Swedish feel. The language appears to rely heavily on multi-syllabic words and the way Ekdahl's voice caresses each consonant and vowel with the utmost care is quite comforting somehow. The sprightly production makes it seem as if the singer is strumming her guitar in the corner of a newly purchased, but immediately homey living room.

The diversity of the songs somehow don't detract from how well each song meshes with what proceeds and what follows. The driving "Benen I Kors" hits a percussive groove as comfortably as the penultimate hypnotic "Vem Vet." I wouldn't even want to hazard a guess as to what either song is about. Somehow knowing might spoil the spellbinding ambiance that is created by that universal slightly imperfect comforting trumpet line that opens the latter song or the clarity of Ekdahl's expressive singing in the former.

The CD is a good reminder that it's not always what a person is saying (or singing) it's the way that person is saying (or singing) something. In other words it isn't always the direct meaning of the words it's sometimes the way it is spoken (or not spoken). Words aren't necessarily the same things as feelings and vice versa. And that's a mighty important reminder (or lesson) to keep in mind.

For a guy with a mushy cerebellum it sometimes sure takes a lot for something to penetrate my skull. And as I find myself singing along with Ekdahl in my pseudo-Swedish, I still feel some kind of connection even though I have no idea what is being said. Or maybe I possibly do, for music is the universal language of love that we all speak at least once or twice in our lives.

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