MOMENT OF THE MONTH: ARJA SAIJONMAA – MOLNEN SKINGRAS

I seriously never expected to have a post in the blog headlined by the Finnish artist Arja Saijonmaa. But nevertheless, she has provided the most uplifting and emotional performance on Swedish TV in years.

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ARJA SAIJONMAA MOLNEN SKINGRAS (Lyckliga gatan, TV4)

In a time, where facistic winds are blowing in most parts of Europe, a piece of music can feel like the most healing thing in the world. As a matter of fact, this whole TV-show, is just that, healing. The idea of Lyckliga gatan (Happy street) is rather simple – have two artists from different genres get together and interpet each other’s songs. The lovely quirk is that, the musical styles of the two artists getting together, are so different from each other, so wide apart that you probably wouldn’t even consider this as a possible option. Well, here I am, watching this lovely little TV-show on prime time television, where these flourishing Swedish hip hop artists get together with publically known, iconic artists active in traditional Swedish genres, and I’m loving it. Just this week the meeting between the brilliant hip hop star Linda Pira and ballad singer Mats Paulson, got me crying like a baby. Watch Linda Pira interpet Mats Paulson’s Visa vid vindens ängar (Song by the wind’s meadows).

But it was a performance on the show’s first week, that totally blew me away and utterly unexpected, to say the least. Rapper Gee Dixon were to meet the Finnish artist Arja Saijonmaa, who’s been active since the 1970’s, both in Sweden and Finland. While Gee took on Arja’s iconic, translated Jag vill tacka livet (I want to thank life), originally Gracias a la Vida, Arja took on a true challenge on interpeting Gee Dixon’s Molnen skingras (The clouds are dispersing). As in most cases, the songs become new songs, completely different from the original, which of course is the whole idea. But still, keeping something elemental from the original intact. And so was the case, also with Arja.

Arja’s version is a hymn-like ballad, with the hammond organ as a sad, yet hopeful foundation, and the elegant build-up of the subtle percussion in the second verse…well, it’s all heaven-like. Adding to that, the charismatic and unmistakable vocals of Arja, where she sings to this young man, who struggles to find his place in the world and calls out to his Father, asking for forgiveness. – “Fader, förlåt mig, ditt ljus täcks av molnen, demonerna vill åt mig, det känns som om himmel portarna har låst sig” (Father, forgive me, the clouds are covering your light, the demons try to catch me, feels like the heaven’s gates are locked). Her interpertation is magnificent and dramatic, yet very subtle. The strength of the performance is how she embodies the lyrics and therefore makes it her song, her support to this lost young man. This performance has got me knocked out, again and again, throughout the month and it still lingers on.

And that’s why, this unexpectedly emotional and enthralling performance is truly the moment of the month.

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