Swede: Alicia Keys’ band sexually harassed me

Members of Alicia Keys' band have been accused of sexually harassing a Swedish woman following the R&B star's recent performance at the Way Out West festival in western Sweden.

Swede: Alicia Keys' band sexually harassed me

Jonna Sima, a 32-year-old Swedish journalist and editorial writer, was basking in the glow of what fans and critics alike had hailed as a top-notch performance by Keys last Saturday night at the storied music festival held annually outside of Gothenburg.

Having been separated from her friends and looking for a way to make it from the festival grounds to the city as a heavy rain began to pour down, Sima spotted some people getting in a minivan and asked if she could get a ride.

“I didn’t know who they were until I got in the van and they explained that they were members of Alicia Keys’ band,” Sima told The Local.

But what could have been a pleasant, post-concert lift back to Gothenburg with the group of American musicians quickly turned into a frightening nightmare journey.

“It became unpleasant almost right away,” she said. “I was scared; really scared.”

Sima said she felt it was safe to ask the group for a ride because the car belonged to the fleet of vehicles in use by concert arrangers Luger. In addition, the driver was also a woman, ensuring that Sima wasn’t the only woman in a car with the five other male passengers.

“It was late, it was raining, and I was either looking at a long walk alone through a darkened wooded area, or getting in a car operated by the concert organizers,” she explained.

The men quickly proposed that Sima accompany them back to their hotel, but when she explained that she simply needed a ride to meet her friends, the mood in the van changed dramatically.

“This isn’t a fucking taxi, bitch! You should be fucking grateful to be here,” one of the men shot back, according to Sima.

“Most women would be grateful just to be with us. We could have picked up any bitch we wanted and she would have been happy to be with us.”

Sima said she tried to keep her cool and not engage with the men, but that one of the band members allegedly continued to harass her.

“Who says we won’t drag you up to our hotel and trash your pussy?” said one of the more vocal band members, who Sima recalled as being the most aggressive.

“If you don’t show some respect we’re going to kick you out of the fucking car.”

As she began to wonder whether she might be thrown from a moving car, she did her best to avoid making eye contact with the men.

“I didn’t want them to realize how frightened I was,” she said.

A short time later, the alleged abuse continued, according to Sima.

“We don’t want you anyway, bitch,” one of the men said. “Yeah, your pussy stinks,” he continued, prompting the other band members to echo the insult while at the same time allegedly breaking into laughter.

Sima’s appeals to the female driver for help fell on deaf ears, with the woman saying “it’s just boys being boys”.

When the van finally arrived at the hotel in Gothenburg after an excruciating ten minutes, Sima was afraid to get out, but was forced to disembark as the driver explained she had to return to the concert site.

She eventually left the van without incident and reunited with her friends, but remained shaken by the incident.

“I really felt threatened. It’s like they decided it was OK to harass me because I didn’t want to go to the hotel,” she explained.

“I don’t know how things are in the United States; maybe men can get away with calling women a bitch and using sexist language.”

Sima provided names and descriptions of some of the band members which The Local was able to confirm that the people who allegedly harassed her were in fact members of Keys’ band.

On Thursday, Sima publicized her story in an article on SVT Debatt, the opinion website of national broadcaster Sveriges Television (SVT).

In the piece, which generated hundreds of reader comments and prompted a lively discussion on social media, she explained how the incident was all the harder to swallow because of Keys’ stature as a “role-model” for women.

“She’s made songs like Superwoman and A Woman’s Worth that are almost considered feminist anthems,” Sima wrote.

“I’d like to think that if she knew how these men behaved that she wouldn’t want to work with them any longer,” she told The Local.

Sima also took her case to concert arranger Luger, which on Thursday issued a statement condeming the incident as “unacceptable”.

“The things Jonna Sima described were unacceptable, regardless of the context,” Luger’s Niklas Lundell told the Göteborgs-Posten (GP) newspaper.

He added that he had contacted the management team of Alicia Keys and was awaiting a response.

“We have a responsibility for what happens under the festival’s name and that of Way Out West,” he added.

“This is a problem that stretches beyond just the influence of Way Out West. Not least since this incident gives reason to think about what can be done by us, the music branch, and society itself.”

In the piece on SVT Debatt, Sima reflected on how many other women had suffered through similar incidents in connection with a concert.

“What does my experience say about the norms that rule the music world?” she wrote.

“What structures make male artists and musicians feel they have the right to treat women like objects? I think we need to talk more about how women are viewed in the music world.”

David Landes

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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.