Music throught the lens: Old Blues in Malmo
During my recent visit to Sweden, I had the pleasure to attend and shoot at a private “underground” music club. The performer, Oscar, was playing old-time acoustic Blues. Being addicted to the Blues myself, both as a musician and a listener, it was practically impossible to decline the invitation.
The place was quite reminiscent of what one could expect… even 50 or 60 or more years ago. I guess the aura of such clubs, exemplified by the presence of so many colorful, interesting and exciting people, is a timeless phenomenon. Suffice to say that I felt right at home and really enjoyed both the environment, as well as the music.
I will let a member of the club, which will remain anonymous, describe their philosophy and approach:
“This club sprung out of the passion for old shellac records and from the discontent with the current discourse of commercial culture. We were also thrilled by the feeling of running a "speak easy" in Sweden I guess. To us, I believe, this place was never meant to be an illegal club (like many others in our town) where we could make some extra cash on the side etc. Being illegal just became a necessary consequence, we just wanted to be able to enjoy the music we love, however we want, whenever we want.
I think it's been around six years now, a lot of great, hazy memories come to mind as I'm writing.
We use to play a lot of jazz, anything you’re able to move your feet to I guess, anything on shellac not worth getting smashed on the zig zaggy "black lodge" painted floor of the club. Blues, ragtime, latin jazz, schlager, hawaiian, trad, swing, big band, gypsy jazz, British dance band, Dixie, hot, bebop, hard bop, rock'n'roll, rhythm and blues, marching tunes, to name a few.
The members dig a lot of the same tunes and genres— we also suffer from numerous individual musical oddities that might clean out the dance floor completely with only a few, remaining drunkards or "true fans" of whomever'sbeing played at the moment. Either that or the place gets torn down by dancing guests, like the roaming 1920's was resurrected from some old dusty and forgotten graveyard. Most nights been like that, at least when I was still attending every club night once a month.
Usually, at least nowadays, the club hosts live performances as well. That's where Oscar, or Gangwolf Lightnin', enters the frame. He always plays there, every time he's passing through. The club has presented a lot of great shows throughout the years with artists and groups such as; Frank Fairfield, Swingin' Hayriders, Shoutin' Red, Countryside of Harmonica Sam, Honey Boy Slim, Lillemor Dahlquvist to, once again, name a few.
May we dance till' our feet carry us never more.”
And here is a short bio of Oscar, from the man himself:
“Born in Barcelona in 1984. It was around 2002 when he started playing some wild 50’s Rock & Roll with his friends in the squat building he lived, a Band called The Flash Cocodrilos. All the guitar players from the 50’s used to listen to some old Blues, Jazz & Country, and that’s exactly the reason why he started focusing more and more to the old stuff. A few years later, after a bunch of unfortunate events, he discovered how miserable life could be, and inevitably got deep into the old time blues. But before he began playing solo, he was the guitar player & singer in various formations of 20’s style Jazz and Swing, working in a great variety of places, from high recognition theaters, casinos and weddings, to unknown hideouts and funky smelling noisy joints for at least 6 years.
Finally, Gang Wolf Lightnin’ was trying to prove a sensation as a solo blues singer, weeping howling vocals, dark, dank, snappy. Roaming and ramblin' round the country with a demo he recorded using a 1940’s 78rpm record cutting lathe (https://gangwolflightnin.bandcamp.com). Nowadays he’s getting ready to record an official hi-fi solo album, which will be a shower of country blues, and his old obscure favorite "songster" tunes.”
Allow me a final comment and the reason this experience carried extra value for me. Here we have a Greek photographer, with distant Russian ancestry, invited by a Swedish girl with originally Middle Eastern roots, shooting a Catalan musician, in Scandinavia, playing the songs of Black people from the Mississippi. I call this priceless. I also call it Modern Humanity. May Music unite us thus, until the stars fade away.
Please enjoy the photos:
(Gear facts: all photos shot with the Fuji X-Pro2 and 35mm f/1.4 and 56mm f/1.2 lenses)
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