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MUSIC

From Britpop to India with Maia Hirasawa

When she graduated from high school, Maia Hirasawa never imagined that she would make a career out of music. Now a decade later, the 29-year-old Swedish-Japanese musician has carved out a space for herself on the Swedish music scene.

From Britpop to India with Maia Hirasawa

With an angelic voice that glides easily through jovial songs with melancholy undertones, Hirasawa possesses a unique musical talent that has finally been recognized by the music world in recent years.

Although music is the centre of her life now, Hirasawa reveals that singing wasn’t always her main interest.

“As a kid I was really into soccer and played a lot of that,” Hirasawa tells The Local.

“I started playing classical piano at age 10, but it wasn’t until I started singing at 17 that music became my main interest.”

Hirasawa recalls how her initial interest in music was sparked by her older sister’s interests.

“I was listening to a lot of what my big sister listened to,” she says. “At that time she was listening to a lot of Britpop music like Suede and Blur and Manic Street Preachers. I also had my own music taste that I liked, such as The Beach Boys, but I kept that to myself because it wasn’t really cool at that time. But I always loved 50s music.”

When she was 13, Hirasawa ventured out and began discovering more music on her own. Her interest continued throughout high school, and she decided to go to a Swedish music school following her high school graduation. But Hirasawa didn’t decide to pursue a professional music career until a vacation put her goals into perspective.

“I think I realized it actually when I was in India for six months when I was 24,” Hirasawa explains.

“I was away from music for that period, and I realized that I really missed it, and I have to sing and write songs to be happy. That was when I decided, ‘I will try to do this as a professional.’ Maybe it won’t work out but at least I tried.”

As soon as she returned from India, Hirasawa started recording music and tried to get as many gigs as possible. She quickly got a music deal and then released her first solo album in 2007, titled Though, I’m Just Me. Despite her success in recent years, Hirasawa says playing live gigs is still her favorite part about her job.

“I love playing on the stage, and you get so much energy from the audience. I don’t think you can compare anything to that.”

When she’s not busy recording or performing music, Hirasawa chooses to use her free time to just relax and clear her mind.

“When I have some spare time, I love to be in the nature, go to the countryside and just go for walks,” she says. “I’m really not this city person. I like to be in the countryside. I love to just be with my friends. I don’t really have that many hobbies.”

With her increasingly successful career, Hirasawa does not forget her roots and is always grateful for the success that she’s had.

“I’m just happy to be able to live on my music, and I’m always trying to sell some records/albums,” Hirasawa says. “It’s not easy in this time when everyone downloads everything, but I’m just happy to have as many gigs as possible. In a way I have already achieved my goal. I can live on my music and people come to my concerts.”

Hirasawa says no matter how her career goes in the future, music will always be her primary focus.

“I think I will make music the rest of my life, but I don’t know if I will be an artist like I am now, going on tours and such,” she says. “But I like to write music, and maybe I will write music for other artists as well. I’ve also written music for a TV drama that was on Swedish TV this past winter.”

Hirasawa will be performing throughout Sweden for the rest of the summer. Her sophomore album titled GBG vs STHLM was released in Sweden recently. Hirasawa says the album should be available in the US in the upcoming months.

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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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