Swedish schlager? In London? Seriously?!

Oh yes! Regular schlager club nights, usually packed out, have taken place in London ever since 2007. Originally started by a Swede back then, since the early days a high proportion of the regular attendees have been British – although the support from ex-pat Swedes remains strong.

In addition, London’s Swedish pub, The Harcourt, is absolutely packed out from 7pm every Saturday for six weeks each February and March when it screens Melodifestivalen. Again, many of the attendees are British.

So what is it exactly?

Think of what ABBA would sound like if they were around today, and you won’t be too far wrong.  The Swedish tradition of highly melodic, catchy and pleasant pop music is still alive today, and it’s not by chance that until very recently Sweden had the world’s third largest music industry.

Melodifestivalen (“The Melody Festival” in English) is Sweden’s annual national song contest which serves as its selection process for the Eurovision Song Contest. To the general disbelief of Brits when they are told, Melodifestivalen is literally the most watched TV programme in Sweden every year – bigger in proportional terms than the UK’s X Factor. Big-name established acts and producers queue up to enter each year, there is heavy tabloid coverage of every rumour and twist for months, and the songs in the contest dominate the Swedish charts and airwaves for many weeks each year. Even the British indie magazine NME has described the standard as “incredibly high”!

Melodifestivalen is traditionally associated with the genre of schlager. In fairness, the range of styles and artists represented has grown ever more diverse in recent years – and Schlagerfest’s music policy does extend well beyond ‘pure schlager’. The spirit of schlager remains strong however, and the bulk of the songs remain recognisably Swedish for their strong melodies and general quality. You’ll find a dedicated schlager dancefloor in many Swedish nightclubs (not always just gay ones) and even on ferries.

Here is just a small selection of YouTube links to classic, fan-favourite schlager songs. Enjoy the fabulous performers, spangly costumes, simple love-story lyrics, ultra-catchy choruses, wind machines and of course, the near-obligatory key changes as the last chorus kicks in:

Charlotte Perrelli – “Hero” (2008)
Carola – “Invincible” (2006)
Sanna Nielsen – “I’m in Love” (2011)
Alcazar – “Not a Sinner Nor a Saint” (2003)
Linda Bengtzing – “Jag ljuger så bra” (2006)
Jenny Silver – “Something in Your Eyes” (2011)
Charlotte Perrelli (nee Nilsson) – “Take Me to Your Heaven” (Eurovision Song Contest winner 1999)
Shirley Clamp – “Att älska dig” (2005)
Lili & Susie – “Show Me Heaven” (2009)

The word “schlager” also exists in Germany but the type of music it describes there is somewhat different.

So it overlaps with Eurovision then? 

It does. Unsurprisingly, fans of schlager tend also to be fans of the music typically associated with the Eurovision Song Contest. In Sweden, Eurovision is followed almost (although not quite!) as passionately as Melodifestivalen itself, and other countries’ Eurovision songs also often top the Swedish charts. Schlager dancefloors in Swedish clubs will tend to mix in Eurovision favourites from around the continent together with the Swedish (mostly Melodifestivalen) songs they play – something we’re more than happy to replicate at Schlagerfest here in London.

So, if you consider yourself a Eurovision fan and you’ve liked a few Swedish Eurovision entries but you’re not yet too familiar with Swedish schlager, you should definitely still come along to Schlagerfest. You’ll know lots of the songs already, and for those that you don’t know, well, it’s not exactly hard music to pick up and dance along to! 🙂

I like this stuff, but I don’t know anybody else who does. Should I come along to Schlagerfest on my own?

Although it’s mainstream in Sweden, Swedish schlager and most other Nordic pop is as good as invisible in the UK, and most British fans of schlager “got into” it only through Internet video and downloads. It can be hard persuading friends to do the same, so it can feel a bit of a solitary interest. But London’s schlager club nights since 2007 have a well earned reputation for being the friendliest and most welcoming nights you’re likely to find anywhere. A number of people (including the current organiser of Schlagerfest) came to their first schlager night completely on their own. The shared love of the music (which is, we suppose, a bit cult-ish in this country), the unpretentious and relaxed mood (how could you be posy or tense when Linda Bengtzing is playing?!) and the alcohol-assisted singing and dancing along soon creates the perfect atmosphere to get talking to others. Many enduring friendships have been born on a schlager dancefloor in London. So please, do give us a try – come along, have a couple of drinks, relax, dance along, mingle, enjoy, sing and dance some more, and never look back.

Why is the night called ‘Schlagerfest’?

As well as sounding pretty good in English we reckon, ‘fest’ is also the Swedish word for ‘party’… 😉

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