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East’n’bul: A slice of Turkish nightlife in Sweden

Dilay Dede meets up with Hakan Vreskala just before the start of his live band tour Klubb East'n'bul, which brings Istanbul style nightlife to Sweden.

East'n'bul: A slice of Turkish nightlife in Sweden

Hakan Vreskala is a Turkish musician who has been living in Sweden for eight years. Together with his band and DJ friends, he is about to embark on a tour to play music from Istanbul: a unique mixture of punk, rock and oriental music. He’s heading to Gothenburg on February 26th and Stockholm on February 28th.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, can you tell us about your musical background?

I formed my first band at the age of 10 in Izmir, Turkey. We used to play punk. I don’t remember the transition from punk music to folk music though. I came to Sweden in 2001 and began working as a street musician.

Then I entered the Royal College of Music in Stockholm and since then I have had the chance the work with various musicians from all over the world making Balkan, Arabian, Kurdish and Turkish music, with musicians including Şivan Perwer, Aida Nadeem, Ferus Mustafov, to name just a few.

I also released an album with Swedish musician Lars Damian and there are potential projects with other Swedish musicians as well. I am a part of Süperstar Orkestar that plays in a Balkan style and Efkar Ensemble.

You also have a band called Nordda. Can you briefly tell us the story of the band?

I have always had Turkey in my mind and I formed this band together with my friend Deniz Cuylan, who lived in Sweden for a while and with Selen, who is in Turkey now. We made an album called “Infinite Face”. The songs are in English with many ethnic elements. The genre is acoustic electro with Nordic tunes. We go on tours in both in Turkey and in Sweden and we are currently working on a new album.

You have been living in Sweden for eight years now. How has studying music and living here changed your perspective and career as a musician?

If I hadn’t come to Sweden, I wouldn’t be able to get to know the sub-cultures that are particular to Sweden. In Sweden, the variety of immigrants makes it an excellent spot for musicians who are seeking inspiration from them. And these musical influences make for an unusual repertoire: music played at an Assyrian christening ceremony or Kurdish henna ceremony.

When I first came here, I thought I was going to play at jazz festivals and travel around the world, but it hasn’t happened like that. I’ve turned out to be a wedding musician instead, playing at Turkish, Kurdish or Assyrian weddings in Sweden. I have learnt a lot from that though.

There is so much fluency and brutality in those weddings. For example, if you want to take a break after playing non-stop for nine hours, they start shouting and begging me to go on playing. It’s kind of horny! You capture their pulse and this strengthens your sense of control over the masses. With my new project, Klubb East’n’bul, I want to combine the rawness of punk music with the brutality of Balkan style wedding music.

How did you come up with the idea of Klubb East’n’bul?

Klubb East’n’bul is the name of a project and a series of a tours around the country. We are in Gothenburg on February 26th and in Stockholm on February 28th. I’ve played at weddings and listened to punk at home, so I wanted to pick out the most entertaining parts of both and play it with a live band and guest musicians.

We want to entertain ourselves first, but I am sure everybody will love it. What is important is to make people from different cultural backgrounds dance together and the language we are singing in does not matter at all. Swedes are quite curious about how people from other nationalities have fun actually.

When it comes to having fun through the music, do you observe any differences in Sweden?

I think what makes a difference in having fun is not one’s nationality, but one’s social class and income. People that belong to the highest social class and have the highest education do not have fun as much as others. It is certainly not like in Istanbul, where 15 million people live and 70 percent of them are under 30 years old.

But we shouldn’t forget that Swedes were once Vikings, one of the wildest and most fun people in the world. In general, I don’t find it useful to compare two countries. It only makes you unhappy.

Can you say that music helps you overcome the problems you would otherwise have to live with as an immigrant in Sweden?

Of course! An immigrant musician gets more attention than an ambassador since the musician is not a political symbol but stands for the fantasies about a race or a country. I believe that to be successful as an immigrant profile in Swedish show business, you should try to highlight your ethnic background although I wish it were the other way around.

Is that what you recommend to other foreign musicians living in Sweden?

My recommendation is that they should not forget who they are and that they should stop comparing Sweden with their homeland. They should try to get the most out of Sweden instead.

Gothenburg

Price: 100 kronor

Time: Thursday February 26th, 8pm

Location: Pusterviksbaren

Tickets: Klubb East’n’bul

Stockholm

Price: 100 kronor

Time: Saturday February 28th, 9pm

Location: Södra Teatern, Kägelbanan

Tickets: Klubb East’n’bul

MUSIC

What are the best concerts in Sweden this autumn?

Now that Sweden has lifted its audience restrictions for public events, The Local's Paul O'Mahony lists his recommendations for the best gigs to attend over the coming months.

Crowd at a music concert in Debaser, Stockholm
Crowds return to Stockholm venue Debaser after pandemic restrictions on events were lifted. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Sweden’s musicians, concert promoters and venue operators have struggled to varying degrees through the pandemic. One surefire way to help get them back on their feet is to give organisers and artists the financial reassurance they need by pre-booking concerts. 

Of course these recommendations only apply if you feel safe attending large events; remember that you should stay home and take a Covid-19 test if you experience any symptoms that could be linked to the virus, even if vaccinated. And make sure to check with organisers if there are any specific coronavirus requirements you need to be aware of. 

Coming up: top gigs in Sweden over the next few months 

As a regular gig-goer, live music is the one thing I’ve missed most over the past year and a half. So it is with some excitement (and, I’ll admit, a degree of trepidation) that I prepare to go see Norwegian band Pom Poko this Friday at Hus 7 in Stockholm. Their melodic art-punk album Cheater sparked the year into life on its release in January. They’re also playing Plan B in Malmö on Saturday night

Plan B is also the venue when Squid hit Sweden with a thrilling dose of post-punk on October 15th. Tickets remain available for the show at the time of writing (an absolute steal at 120 kronor), though that’s sadly not the case in Stockholm where their October 16th gig at Melodybox sold out a long time ago. (Although you can sign up to be added to a waiting list). 

Another artist well worth checking out in October is Gothenburg guitarist and singer Amanda Werne, better known as Slowgold. Her live shows are great and she is embarking on a Swedish tour on October 8th. 

Emma-Jean Thackray, one of the UK’s most interesting jazz artists, will be at Fasching in Stockholm on October 15th

For the best kind of sonic assault, Anna von Hasswolff’s band Bada are scheduled to play in Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg in late October. 

Have any of you ever seen Gothenburg electronic veterans Little Dragon live? I haven’t but might check them out in November when they swing by Malmö, Stockholm and Gothenburg

Amason are also heading out on the road for a Scandinavian tour in November. If you haven’t heard Amanda Bergman’s voice in a live setting before this will be a treat. 

The inimitable Sibille Attar released her superb second album A History of Silence at the start of the year and she’s finally getting the chance to play her eighties-inspired gems live at Slaktkyrkan in Stockholm on November 18th

Cassandra Jenkins long lurked in the background as a musician in touring bands for people like Eleanor Friedberger and Purple Mountains. But this year’s album An Overview on Phenomenal Nature has really established her as an artist to be reckoned with in her own right. She’s coming to Södra Teatern in Stockholm on November 26th

Always popular in this part of the world, The Jesus and Mary Chain return to Sweden for dates in Stockholm and Gothenburg at the end of November

Wry Finland-Swedish indie outfit Vasas Flora och Fauna have some of the funniest (Swedish) lyrics and catchiest tunes around. They’ll be in Stockholm and Gothenburg the first weekend of December

UK experimental rockers Black Midi are also playing Stockholm and Gothenburg on December 4th and 5th. So prepare to travel if you want to catch both them and Vasas Flora and Fauna. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Bob Hund’s annual ‘week 48’ show also takes place on December 4th. But that has been sold out for ages so no decisions to make there. It is also worth noting though that Sweden’s hardest working band has also written a musical that’s going to be performed in Helsingborg (October-November) and Gothenburg (November)

Bonus: For a post-Christmas pick-me-up try to get down to Little Simz at Slaktkyrkan on January 14th if you’re in Stockholm. The UK rapper’s new album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is one of this year’s best releases. 

Selected artists playing Sweden in 2022: Henry Rollins, Sarah Klang, Yann Tiersen, Mogwai, Pearl Charles, Wolf Alice, Lloyd Cole, Lord Huron, Future Islands, Josh Rouse + Vetiver, Tricky, Snail Mail, Porridge Radio, Aldous Harding, Shame, The Kooks, The War on Drugs, Echo and the Bunnymen, Kings of Convenience, Fontaines D.C., Alex Cameron, Lucy Dacus, The Divine Comedy, Mdou Moctar, Iggy Pop, Chubby and the Gang, Sparks, Belle & Sebastian, The National, Sharon Van Etten, Teenage Fanclub, Tindersticks, Suede, Viagra Boys, Pavement. 

For bigger arena shows, Ticketmaster covers a lot of the bases. Big-name acts with gigs in the offing include Ed Sheeran, Zara Larsson, Whitesnake and, lest we forget, ABBA

And that’s just a fraction of what’s going on. Tour schedules are busier than ever now that artists are finally getting back on the road. To keep track of what gigs are coming up I can recommend checking in with Luger, FKP Scorpio, and Live Nation. Follow your favourite venues too: sometimes they cut out the middleman and do their own booking and promotion. I also use the Bandsintown app, which comes with the added bonus of receiving messages from your favourite artists which let you pretend to be their friend. 

Enjoy the gigs, and stay safe! 

Paul O’Mahony is editorial product manager at The Local. In his spare time he plays the best new indie and alternative music as host of the Signals show on Nerve Music.

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