Jazz, Sweden, and WWII: Background information when reading Wonderful Feels Like This

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Wonderful Feels Like This

by Sara Lovestam

Wonderful Feels Like This by Sara Lovestam X
Wonderful Feels Like This by Sara Lovestam
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2017, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2018, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag
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About this Book

Jazz, Sweden, and WWII

This article relates to Wonderful Feels Like This

Print Review

Nalen ClubWhile most people might think of Harlem, New Orleans, or Paris when they think of jazz music, Swedish jazz is the thread that binds the past and present in the lives of Steffi and Alvar in Sara Lövestam's Wonderful Feels Like This. Alvar is a jazz musician in 1940s in Stockholm, right before what was considered the golden age of Swedish jazz. One of the things that Steffi explores with Alvar is how jazz was an expression and reminder of the power of life during a very fraught time in history.

Alice BabDespite Sweden's official policy of neutrality throughout the duration of WWII, the war affected the daily life of Sweden's citizens through coffee, gasoline, and other rations. While only briefly touched upon during the book's narrative, Sweden's neutrality wasn't without concessions to both the Allied and Axis powers, and the possibility of becoming more entrenched in conflict was certainly on people's minds. Many Swedes signed up for the Finnish army, and refugees fleeing Nazi rule and persecution were smuggled into Sweden, even as the country sold iron ore to Germany, and German troops and trains were allowed free passage through the country.

Povel RamenA less tangible effect of the war was propaganda against jazz music – at that time a distinctly American form hallmarked by musicians such as Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, and Glenn Miller – which was seen as something that was morally bankrupt and detrimental to society's youth (not unlike the ways in which it was seen in other parts of the world, too). Despite the negative view of the music genre, many younger people saw jazz, from ragtime to improvisational music, as something new and modern. It became a celebrated part of Swedish culture. The National, a club also known as Nalen, or, "the Needle," was the center of the Swedish jazz scene and both international and Swedish musicians played there through the 1960s.

Many of the musicians mentioned in Wonderful Feels Like This as companions or acquaintances of Alvar's were big names in the jazz world, and their recordings can be found on sites such as YouTube. Sara Lövestam mentions in her notes that Alice Bab's music from "Swing It, Magistern!" and Povel Ramel's "Var är tvålen" ("Where's the Soap") are pieces, in particular, worth investigating.

"Swing It, Magistern!" with Alice Bab:



Nalen
Alice Babs, courtesy of artmusiclounge
Povel Ramel, courtesy of sverigesradio.se

This "beyond the book article" relates to Wonderful Feels Like This. It originally ran in May 2017 and has been updated for the July 2018 paperback edition.

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