• Sweden edition

Stockholm's jazz scene puts up a fight

Published: 12 May 2006 12:32 GMT+02:00
Updated: 12 May 2006 12:32 GMT+02:00

If you walked into the Gyllene Cirkel on a cold autumn night back in 1962 you might have caught jazz-legend Dexter Gordon together with some of Sweden’s finest rhythm men like Sture Nordin and Rune Carlsson as they played in the ABF-building’s smoke-filled ballroom. Back then artists played week long gigs where dozens of different jazz musicians would gather to exchange ideas and inspirations from both sides of the Atlantic.

Over the years though, the live music scene in Stockholm has changed dramatically as the forces of big-business, pop-culture and modern society have done their best to stamp the remaining life out of modern musical development.

At the end of 2005, Mondo, a popular venue for improvisational music, declared bankruptcy after it lost its liquor license. A few months later Lydmar Hotel, a well-established scene for jazz, soul and hip-hop, was forced to close its doors after the building owners decided that a bank office would be a much better use of the space than a legendary center for creativity and performance.

“The Stockholm live-music scene is almost dead and it seems as if everyone is doing their best to try and kill it off,” says Ingmari Pagenkemper, who before it closed was responsible for booking acts like The Jungle Brothers and Isaac Hayes to the Lydmar Hotel. But there are signs of hope with recent rumours that Stockholm’s Debaser club might take over Mondo’s business.

Likewise, Pagenkemper has now started working as producer at Södra Teatern. She is involved in two international musical projects and hopes to eventually start booking individual acts to that venue. But there are still many challenges facing the live-music scene in the Swedish capital.

“Audiences have become lazy and spoiled. People get their entertainment through the Internet and TV, so it is increasingly harder to get them to go out and buy a ticket if they don’t know exactly what to expect,” Pagenkemper says.

As always, the necessary evil that keeps the ship floating but can also run it into the rocks, and send it to the bottom of the ocean, is money.

Venues take big financial risks when they book new or upcoming artists. A few mistakes can bankrupt a place. For this reason, according to Pagenkemper, a lot of venues have chosen more mainstream acts over lesser known artists because there is a greater chance they will make a profit.

This is what has happened at the Stockholm Jazz Festival whose recent headliners include stars like Stevie Wonder, Jonny Lang and Lauren Hill. This year’s festival will put artists like Kayne West and Sting under the “jazz” headline.

Pagenkemper is well aware that events like the Stockholm Jazz Festival need to be run as businesses but she doesn’t agree with the way they are managing the music. “They think this is their way to reach a new generation and new target groups. I think it is necessary to find new audiences but they are going about it the wrong way. It is a disaster for the improvisational music scene”.

Pagenkemper sees collaboration as the way to breathe life and inspiration into the live music scene.

“At Lydmar one of my passions was to bring foreign artists together with Swedish producers and musicians, where they could exchange ideas or go into a studio together. It was greatly appreciated by both foreign artists and Swedish producers alike”.

This is the same concept that Gyllene Cirkeln used back in the sixties when Stockholm was a European center for live, improvisational music. With international and local artists constantly exchanging ideas the music and creative scene in Stockholm blossomed.

While today’s music scene is suffering, it is not yet dead. According to Pagenkemper there are good promoters and good venues in Stockholm. The Glenn Miller Café for example, is doing a fantastic job of offering new music while Mosebacke, which does not have as much jazz as it used to, is still offering a lot of high-quality concerts and independent artists.

Berns has also begun to offer a wide range of not-so commercial jazz, soul and R&B and finally Södra Teatern is promoting world music, spoken-word and jazz.

So despite the setbacks at the Lydmar and Mondo, many on the music scene are hopeful that Pagenkemper will continue to put her experience of forming collaborations between top international artists and Sweden’s young, creative minds to good effect.

David Francisco

Photo on homepage: Bajofondo Tango Club & Luciano Supervieille at Södra Teatern

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

Don't miss...X
Left Right
Today's headlines
Grounded flights strand Swedes in Tel Aviv
Photo: Matt Rourke/TT

Grounded flights strand Swedes in Tel Aviv

UPDATE: About 270 passengers planning to fly to Stockholm are still stranded in Tel Aviv, and airlines have stated that flights will likely be grounded on Thursday as well. READ  

The Local List
Top ten: Swedish taboos
The butter knife is for butter. Photo: Mats Sandelin/TT

Top ten: Swedish taboos

From standing in line to taking your hols in the off-season, Sweden is a society with customs and faux pas, the Danes might say taboos. Here is a list of ten to watch out for. READ  

Fears mount for Swede kidnapped in Ukraine
A tank in Horlivka. Photo: Dmitry Lovetsky/TT

Fears mount for Swede kidnapped in Ukraine

A mediator who handles prisoner exchanges between Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels said on Wednesday that he feared for the life of a kidnapped Swede. READ  

Vattenfall cuts losses despite 'tough market'
Photo: TT

Vattenfall cuts losses despite 'tough market'

Swedish power group Vattenfall said on Wednesday that second quarter losses had been cut despite trying market conditions, forecasting that energy prices were unlikely to recover in the "foreseeable future". READ  

Swedes 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Swedish actors Peter Johansson, Anna Sahlin and Måns Zelmerlöw. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

Swedes 'most beautiful' in the Nordics

Who is the fairest of them all? Swedes are, according to the rest of the Nordic nations in a recent survey. READ  

My Swedish Career
American teams up with Swede to beat cancer
Matthew Volsky holding the Gynocoular colposcope which is used for screening cervical cancer. Photo: Gynocoular

American teams up with Swede to beat cancer

When Matthew Volsky first came to Sweden he didn't think he would stick around. Six years and a pioneering invention later he tells The Local about the medical device which is helping save lives around the world. READ  

Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Arla organic milk. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth

Swedes are spending more and more of their food budget on organic foodstuffs, with major supermarkets reporting double digit increases, according to new statistics. READ  

Swedish police warn of rogue pregnant cow
The cow pictured is not the one in the story, and presumably not cranky. Photo: Mike Groll/TT

Swedish police warn of rogue pregnant cow

Police in southern Sweden have issued a public warning about a pregnant cow on the loose, after two people were sent to the hospital after a hustle with the heifer. READ  

Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
Photo: Mark Lennihan/TT

Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax

With EU countries' treatment of Bitcoin varying vastly, Sweden has asked for clear EU rules stipulating whether or not the cryptocurrency should be taxed. READ  

Google in failed bid for Sweden's Spotify
Photo: Spotify

Google in failed bid for Sweden's Spotify

US Internet giant Google tried last year to buy Sweden-based streaming music service Spotify, but pulled out due to the beefed-up price tag, according to a media report on Tuesday. READ  

Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
People-watching Båstad
Business & Money
Sweden falls to third in global innovation index
Swedish ornithologists keep webcam watch
Blog updates

22 July

Det (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! “Det” is a personal pronoun that can be used in many ways, and it might me confusing if you always translate “det” to English “it”. In this article I will do my best to guide you to how to use “det”. Det replacing a word, a phrase or a clause Let us begin with the less confusing..." READ »


22 July


"Today (22 July) my Prime Minister, David Cameron, and UNICEF, are hosting the world’s first #GirlSummit in London. The Summit’s aim is to mobilise domestic and international efforts to end the appalling practices of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Child Early Forced Marriage (CEFM). This is a high priority for the UK government and the Prime..." READ »

Photo: Andreas Nordström/Image Bank Sweden
Top ten Swedish beach hot spots
Swedish Wiki vet sets new content record
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Finest.se
People-watching July 15-16
Photo: Ola Ericson/Image Bank Sweden
What's On in Sweden
Photo: Lisa Mikulski
Hope springs eternal for expat pet shop owner
Princess Estelle steals limelight at mum's birthday
Swedes risk infants' lives by covering up prams
Swede runs for office just using Bitcoin funds
People-watching July 11-13
Malmö mayor slams Danish beggar ban
Swedish anti-abortion midwife sues county
Swede's salary chopped for Facebook use
Northern Sweden warmest in 90 years
'Victoria Day': Crown Princess Victoria turns 37
Mona Sahlin to fight extremism in Sweden
EU tells Sweden to cover up snus flavours
Swede snags assassin role in Tom Cruise film
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at: