Swedish anti-commercial music movement that attacked politics and Eurovision

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The reason for this was Progg, a rebellion against commercial music that started groups such as Nationalteatern, the Hoola Bandoola Band and Blå Tåget.

What is the progg?

Progg, abbreviation of den progressiva musikrörelsen or “The progressive music movement” was a reaction to the heavily commercialized pop and rock of British and American influence that flooded Sweden from the mid-1960s.

It usually dates back to two free and illegal festivals held in Stockholm Gärdet Park in 1970, inspired by Woodstock in the United States, and the Almstriden (Elm War), in the summer of 1971, when the hippies occupied part of Kungsträdgården, a central square with a small park in Stockholm to prevent the slaughter of a group of 13 elms.

Stylistically, the progg mixed elements of garage rock and roll, Swedish folk, cabaret, jazz, blues and protest songs. Like punk a decade later, he had a DIY philosophy, emphasizing expression over musical skills.

This meant that some of the bands, especially the less famous ones, were pretty rude, at least judging by the performances during the protests against Eurovision Song Contest in the movie Vi har vår egen sång (We have our own song).

In the documentary on the Hoola Bandoola Band, Scanian blues, roots and reggae musician Peps Persson, who was at the forefront of the progg movement, captured what many bands lack, when asked what he wants. thought of them in their prime.

“I thought they had some really great lyrics, but I didn’t think they were ‘swinging’,” he says.

What happened at Eurovision?

A biting and sardonic song by Gothenburg progger Ulf Dageby sums up the mood in its title: Doing the omoralisk Schlager-festivalern, or “doing the immoral Schlager festival”, “schlager” referring to the simple and catchy songs loved by the festival.

Under the name Sillstryparn (“the herring strangler”), Dageby, a member of the Nationalteatern group, sees ABBA and Eurovision as little better than tools of capitalism, criticizing their songs for their lack of political messages.

Och här kommer ABBA i kläder av plast /Lika döda som sillkonserver. (“And here is ABBA in plastic clothes, as dead as preserved herring ”), continues a memorable line.

Och världens melodi, förtryck och slaveri / Vad fan rör det våra artist? (“And the melody of the world, oppression and slavery, our artists don’t care”)

De ställer upp på allt, de tar det smörigt kallt / I fascisternas feta ister (“They are ready for anything, they take it very cold in the fat fat of the fascists”).

What was the size of progg?

Progg never rivaled pop, punk, or synth in popularity, but back then Musikens Makt, progg’s house magazine, was arguably the dominant music magazine in Sweden, the equivalent of the UK’s New Musical Express (NME).

In addition, progg groups such as Nationalteatern and Blå Tåget are now considered part of Swedish rock history.

But because one of the main requirements for being a progg was to sing in Swedish and refuse deals with international labels, hardly anyone outside the country has ever heard of it.

In 2000, Lukas Moodysson’s film Together, on a Swedish commune in 1975, celebrated some of the great progg groups, with the soundtrack starring Nationalteatern, Marie Selander and Turid Lundqvist, as well as commercial pop music from ABBA and Ted Gärdestad.

How did politics get into it?

The biggest labels, Nacksving, Silence and MNW, were all very politically engaged, releasing only bands that expressed “correct” leftist ideas.

Singer-songwriter Ulf Lundell, for example, was rejected by both MNW and Silence, while Kebnekajse, which was signed for Silence, received widespread criticism for the lack of left-wing ideas expressed. in their songs, and eventually signed with the commercial company Mercury Records.

Gothenburg-based Nackswing was one of the more ideological labels, releasing records from Nationalteatern, Motvind and other local bands.

Even further to the left was Proletärkultur, a label owned by KPML (r), a Swedish Communist Party centered in Gothenburg, whose roster included the group Knutna nävar (Clenched Fists).

Progg songs often feature people in factories the same way Swedish does Arbetarlitteratur, (“Proletarian Literature”), which also experienced a renaissance in the 1970s.

The classics are from Nationalteatern Hanna från Arlöv, (“Hanna d’Arlöv”), where a working-class woman’s protest in a laundry teaches the narrator, who is probably less of a worker, the value of standing up for his rights, Strejken på SAAB, “The strike at SAAB”, by Fria Proteatern, or Är du lönsam lille vän, “Are you profitable, boyfriend? by the Gläns Över Sjö och Stränd group.

Songs can also express political ideas in fantasy, with songs like Blå Tåget’s På Väg to Koppargruvan, (“On the way to the copper mine), which features a man driving to his shift who is hijacked by a tailless fox, and a skinless bear, who then takes him to a fancy hotel , where they murder together politicians and businessmen conspire to further destroy their environment.

What happened to progg?

Clashes between the far left and the more hippie elements of progg hit the movement hard by the late 1970s, and by the early to mid-1980s it had grown deeply out of fashion and was eclipsed by a wave of punk bands. and synth.

But Swedish punk bands shared the DIY approach to progg, and perhaps the most beloved song from Sweden’s most beloved punk band, “Staten och kapitalet” (State and capital), is a cover of “Blå Tåget “Den ena handen vet vad den andra gör“,” One hand knows what the other is doing “.

For 50 years since Progg’s heyday, bands like Nationalteatern and Hoola Bandoola member Mikael Wiehe have been like every other aging rocker performing their golden oldies across Sweden.

Finally, as Sweden’s contribution to world music increasingly seems to be about super-producers like Max Martin creating identity hits for big-name American stars, it’s easy to start longing for a bit of anti-rebellion. -commercial.


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