Hallå Hela Pressen (Hello all the Press) at Victoria’s

The word “Schlager” translates as “pop” according to Google. But that isn’t quite an accurate definition.

Wikipedia describes it thusly: “Schlager (German Schlager, loosely translated as a “hit”) is a style of popular music that is prevalent in Central and Northern Europe, in particular Germany, Austria, Croatia, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Scandinavia, but also to a lesser extent in France, the Baltic States and Poland.

Typical schlager tracks are either sweet, highly sentimental ballads with a simple, catchy melody or light pop tunes. Lyrics typically center on love, relationships and feelings. The northern variant of schlager, notably in Finland, has taken elements from Nordic and Slavic folk songs, with lyrics tending towards melancholic and elegiac themes. Musically the Schlager has some similarities to other styles like Easy Listening-Music.”

In a country like Australia, we would typically know “Schlager” through the annual telecast of the Eurovision Song Contest. In Sweden it is often referred to as the “Schlager Festival.”

Indeed, Wikipedia goes on to talk about “Schlager” in Sweden… “…schlager has been a popular form of music since at least the 1970s, even though it has had its up and downs. It still enjoys a large place in Swedish culture, although it is often considered to be too “popular and commercial” by many people.

The Swedish Melodifestival that selects the Swedish competitor at the Eurovision Song Contest is popularly called Schlagerfestivalen (The Schlager Festival) since it has traditionally been characterized by schlager songs. The amount of schlager has decreased drastically in recent years, but schlager songs are the most frequent single genre to win the competition…It is held annually, and in 2006 an estimated 47% of the Swedish population watched the final. In Sweden, “schlager” is often used to refer to Eurovision participating songs, especially those from Malta, known for its schlager offerings.

Two characterizing features of Swedish songs clearly identifiable as schlager are that they almost invariably contain a pronounced key change before the final chorus, and they usually last almost exactly three minutes – the maximum length permitted at the Eurovision Song Contest….”

To me, this type of music is something I have always liked even before I knew I was listening to “Schlager.” In the last few years, I have been very interested in Melodifestivalen – the Swedish national contest to choose their Eurovision entry. I’ve been watching the shows via download and buying the CDs and DVDs.

My good friend James O’Brien is also a big fan of Schlager and of  Melodifestivalen. When he was in Sweden earlier this year, he told me about a weekly “Schlasger Night” at a city restaurant/bar/club called “Victoria’s”. Every Monday night, a “Schlager Band” takes to the stage and does two sets that are full of hugely popular schlager songs. James loved it and I was determined to go.

The first Monday night I was in Stockholm, I was still very much feeling the effects of the 25-odd hours of flights from Sydney – Seoul – London – Stockholm. I was in no position or mood to go out.

However, last Monday night I did get my act together and head into Victoria’s to see Hallå Hela Pressen and boy, I was completely blown away. I felt like I’d died and gone to Swedish Schlager heaven. The band was amazing. The crowd was wild – they knew the words and sang along to ALL the songs and I mean ALL of the songs!

A champagne bucket was passed around amongst the crowd so that you could make song requests for the bandto perform. If they didn’t like your request, they would frown, screw up the piece of paper and throw it back at you. But they did do some of the requests and camped it up wildly. Victoria’s is not a Gay venue and the crowd was very mixed, but the Schlager night definitely had a camp sensibility.

The two lead singers – who were amazingly talented – would often run into the crowd and jump up the bench seating and continue singing. I had both of the singers, at various times, straddling me and singing to the crowd. One of the guys had his bum and his crotch right in my face. As a fellow patron commented to me later “You had your own show!” And indeed I did.

The band did so many songs I knew and loved and performed them with such gusto it was totally infectious. I just kept buying more beers and singing along. Between sets, schlager music was played over the P.A. (naturally!)

It is hard to describe a schlager night/schlager band to people from a country like Australia where we have no such cultural tradition. The concept would seem totally alien. But, as a confirmed Swedophile, it was totally sublime experience for me.

Hallå Hela Pressen

Hey, those are my legs you're almost stepping on!

Even the Security Guard got on stage to sing!

The crowd was in the mood for drinking, singing and dancing!

James uploaded a short video of the band which I’ve included below. In it they are joined by a couple of Swedish singers who happened to be there. The song they are doing is “Bara Hon Älskar Mig” (She Only Loves Me) which was a hit for the group “Blond” more than a decade ago. I have the single and also saw Blond  perform it in concert way back then. And I bought a Blond T-Shirt too!

And this little clip captures more of the craziness that is Schlager Night!

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4 Comments

  1. Here is another Youtube-clip of the band Hallo all press (Hallå hela pressen)

    🙂

  2. It was a highlight from my trip and glad it didn’t disappoint.

  3. Too Cool!! Schlager night. We should be so lucky here in the NW part of the USA. Our biggest problem is that we’re still stuck in yesteryear…can’t seem to get rid of the “Grunge” that started in Seattle years ago. Oh, maybe an occasional song…in flashback of course…but never a whole evening devoted to schlager. Too much boom boom boom, screeching dueling guitars and singers that do more crotch grabbing than real singing. I guess JudgeG will have to relocate here for a time to set things on the right track. Yup! Sounds like a plan to me! ;-))

    • Well, I’d have about as much luck going to a schlager night in Sydney as you would in north west USA, Fred! If I was living in Stockholm, I’d be at this schlager Monday night every week – I’d have to take Tuesaday mornings off work for “hangover recovery”;-)


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