Trying to explore Kebnekajse, part three;
The story diverses depending on whom of Kebnekajse’s members are telling it. As for the year, but it should have been in 1973 (anyhow this episode occurred between the second and the third album).
Kebnekajse was on tour far up in the north of Sweden, Norrland. Winter, snow and 20 C degrees below zero (according to some). In the middle of nowhere it suddenly started to come smoke from the engine of the bus. (Later they found out that it had come water in the gasoline. The bus had probably frozen during the night when parked in Arvidsjaur.) Anyhow the bus could drive to Glommersträsk – a metropole that on a map of Sweden is found (if at all) between Arvidsjaur and Skellefteå, then it stopped. Totally. The bus could not drive any further.
It is like a scene from a movie; Out of the bus with Stockholm plates come a bunch of really longhaired, bearded musicians. Dressed in big armyfurs and jeans plodding through the snow in search for help. (In this part of Sweden it is far between the houses). The only consolation is that it is daylight (It could have been night; the days are very short up there). In Glommersträsk they find a café. And yes! It is open so they go inside and get into the middle of a funeral party drinking coffee.
An old man in the company has contacts. He arranges for a post bus to come. The equipment is reloeaded from Kebnekajse’s smaller, grey military bus into the big yellow post coach and they can go on the gig (they do not agree, but probably) in Skellefteå. The next day some of the members are going to Lycksele, where the post keeps its stock of buses, and they buy a new bus; or rather a similar used bus from the sixties. Pure luxury, thought Kebnekajse, in comparison with the old bus from 1954.
Between 1972 and 1977 Kebnekajse toured constant. ”The bus was always rolling”, sais Kenny Håkansson. ”We were like a family, lived and played together. All of the time!” says Hassan Bah. ”Some years we played two thirds of the year and had free the other third”, adds Pelle Ekman. ”We travelled three weeks a month – five days a week. Then we had free a few days. Gurra (Gunnar Andersson) , who had been a truck driver, serviced the bus, Pelle (Ekman) and Mats (Glenngård) made the bookings – then we went off again. It was a five years session,” sais Pelle Lindström.
The big yellow post stagecoach, the one bought in Lycksele, was arranged with madrasses in the back, a small kitchen, a watercan with a pump in the front. Pelle Ekman; ”There was always a big cauldron with somthing cooking on the stove.” Instruments and amplifiers were kept in the middle.
Including hitchhikers they used to pick up for shorter rides, they could at times be 15 persons in the bus. Plus, at
the most, four dogs. Kenny: ”A vagrant riff-raff.” Mats: ”Greatful Dead feeling.”
Sometimes they slept in the bus. When it was warm in the summer they could stop by a lake, take out their mattresses and sleep on the beach. But most of the time they were invited to people and brought their madrasses and slept on the floor. Mats remembers a community in Hedesunda a little outside Gothenburg. Kebnekajse always slept at their place when playing in or around Gothenburg. ”I think we slept only one night at a hotel ”, says Göran Lagerberg. ”It might have been in Arvika”.
They played at music forums and festivals, in prisons and in schools. A whole lot of gigs and very low fees. For eleven (!) musicians – when Kabnekajse was as largest – they could be paid about 2000 kronor. Or 0 kronor, because it was often support gigs for all sorts of things. ”We had very low rents, from 100 kronor and down. That is why we could do it. The only profitable concerts were a tour in the schools paid for by Rikskonserter (Goverment’s concert org.). It lasted 14 days.”
This space is not enough also to tell the story of the Swedish Progressive Musical Movement. But a few lines could maybe be necessary (for new Kebnekajse listeners):
You could say that the movement was born in 1970 at the very first Gärdetsfest (Sweden’s kind of Woodstock) in Stockholm. Later this alternative and/or progressive music movement was spread all over Sweden.: it came to include unions of music clubs (which organised concerts, festivals and started music/culture houses), record companies (among one is Silence and the only one still around), record distribution music papers. When the movement after a couple of years became more and more politicised there was a growing antagonism between the ”high and fuzzy” and the ”political” wings of the movement.
Kebnekajse were considered ”high and fuzzy”. When I remind the members of this fact they became as upset today as they were back then. Pelle L: ”We were among the ones that started the whole movement” Kenny: ”We were not on the barricades but we were out touring. ”They are referring to the fact that Kebnekajse was one of the few bands that actually made some money in benefit for the movement. When Kebnekajse played people came. For example, the leading music club in Gothenburg – Sprängkullen – got 400 new members one night when Kebnekajse was on stage.
But it was Sprängkullen, the strongest fort for the hardest left wings, that was the hardest critic of Kebnekajse. The political wing of the music movement thought that political and progressive meant the same; socialistic. Kebnekajse played instrumental music – and therefore the music could not be progressive. The music did not have political lyrics. It was not music for the working class. ”Mats Glenngård used to play with ABBA” could be the motivation when Kebnekajse were not allowed to play at a club. Another comment: ”We can accept your music but not your audience.” Someone asked Ingemar Böcker where Kebnekajse had their political roots? He answered: D7.
Ingemar is the one that – still – gets most upset to be called a fuzz head. He describes Kebnekajse as a band where all members were lifted out into the light – the community backed the individuals.
The instrumental songs that Ingemar composed – Comanche Spring – on the second ”blue” album, and ”balladen om björnbär och närmelon” (The ballad of black berries and net melon” , found on the third and ”brown” album – could actually be described as programmatic; it is instrumental music with a message.
”Black berries” and ”ne tmelon” are referring to two kinds of people; the ones growing wild and should be left alone and the ones who need to be taking care of and get help to grow. In between the tunes it could happen that Ingemar started to talk about the poisoning of our environment with the audience. He says, that in a way Kebnekajse was the ”start of the environmental movement.”
He is still annoyed of Musikens Makt, the music paper of the movement. In the paper you could read that a female member of a band took a motherhood leave. ”But not one word about that I did the same when I became a father”, he mutters.
Most of the critics are focusing on the fact that Kebnekajse smoked hash. ” Well, we did smoke some ”Pelle L. In Musikens Makt 4/73 there is an interview with Kenny, Pelle Ekman and Mats Glenngård made by Tommy Rander and Bertil Goldberg. A large part of the interview is about smoking hash. ”We were naïve” says Pelle E. ”We should not have been talking about it.” After that article it was the end of Kebnekajse’s career on some important clubs. ”But Turid, member in Kebnekajse 1971-74, put a good word for us, she said we were nice guys.”
Ingemar: ”It was a fumbling attempt to find another intoxicant than wine or liquor. It was flower power. When you had seen pictures of American military police officers thrashing little girls you did not want to be a part of that kind of society. Hell no! But then it had (=to smoke hash) more serious consequences than people thought.”
Kenny: ” It was for the good and the bad.”
And now we have ended up in the dilemma I always get into when I listen to my favourite groups from the sixties and the seventies. I like the music – and I will go on doing so – but at the same time you know that the music never had sounded like that if not the musicians had taken forbidden substances. A true dilemma: should you, could you like the music when you know that the same thing that helped the music sound so good is the same thing that has created a living hell for many musicians around the world?
The fact that you turned on, did it affect your music?
”Of course it did” says Göran Lagerberg. ”The improvisations could sometimes be long parts where you just played one chord over and over again. Sometimes it started to happen things, but sometimes it was really nothing.”
”Otherwise it had turned out to be something else”, sais Kenny. ”It had turned out more uninteresting, more like Mertit Hemmingsson.”
Kebnekajse toured so much and gave so many concerts that they never had time to rehearse and maybe they did not even need to. At home in Stockholm they could play for a week at the same place. They tried out new tunes, the concerts were the rehearsals.
They did not have difficult arrangements. ”First we played the melody in unison, once or twice,” says Kenny. ”Then we played the melody in different parts. After that followed a free part. And then we came back to the melody.” He adds: ”We started to play Swedish folk tunes 1972 and about 1974 they had got their shape. The tunes were formed on stage.”
In the booklet to the former ”blue” album I wrote that a record is a record and different from a concert – and this is definitely true when you speak of Kebnekajse. It is something about the length of the tunes ”actually the tunes could go on forever” (Kenny). But it is also about the repertoire as a whole.
For most of us that hung around in the seventies Kebnekajse is stuck in our memory as the band who electrified the Swedish folk music and started to play ”electric folk”. But the memory fools us – that is not the whole truth about Kebnekajse. Some of the rocktunes, mainly from the first album ”Resa mot okänt mål”, were played live also during the folk period. The long instrumental tunes of Ingemar Böcker, which were shifting between jazz and rock, were also a part of the concerts. Besides, Kebnekajse had an African percussionist Hassan Bah, from Guinea-Conacry. During the travels in the bus he played tapes with his native music and he made Kebnkejase pick up African music.
All the musical forms mentioned above could be heard on the concerts with Kebnekajse. So in this aspect the so called ”brown” album ”III” is the album that best reflects the repertoire.
Here you’ll find, mostly, folk tunes but also an instrumental country tune by Kenny ”St John” and Ingemar’s instrumental ballad of ”Black berries and net melon”, where jazz and rock are glued together by the Swedish folk tone. The album is finished with an African melody ”Mariamá!” pointing towards the next album ”Ljus från Afrika” (Lights from Africa) (March 1976), with only African melodies. (A really good record that came too early, before the interest in Afro music started to grow in Sweden, and should also be re-issued!)
I should also mention Anders Lind, who recorded the albums, before I run out of space in this booklet. In my opinion has Anders Lind always been – and is – the most personal engineer in Sweden. Anders has his own philosophy of sounds. He speaks of ”sound purism”, and to ”not record with reverb on the snare drum”, and ”to record really dry”. He wants to ”capture the authenticity”. Kebnekajse is fundamentally recorded live in the studio with ”very few overdubs”. The result, as I want to describe it, is that you recognize the band and the music on stage and on record. It is vivid recordings; when I hear Kebnekajse on record I am in the same room as the band.
When Kebnekajse recorded their fourth album, the above mentioned ”Lights from Africa”, the group had diminished into five members; Kenny Håkansson, Pelle Ekman, Thomas Netzler, Mats Glenngård and Hassan Bah. On the fifth album ”The elephant”, the reduction went on; no less than three different drummers played on the record. The musicians had started to go separate ways musically; they had more interest in their own side projects and left the group.
Pelle Lindström: ”Mats and Thomas came dragging with Genesis records. Listen, they said, this is how we should sound.” Göran Lagerberg had got his ears on Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock and got interested in jazz rock and fusion. Those of the members who considered the band as part of the movement in the seventies were not overwhelmingly happy when EMA, the big concert agent started to make the bookings for the band.
The album ”Elefanten” (The elephant) (recorded in the winter of 1976-77) has three instrumental tunes by Kenny and two by Mats but only one traditional Swedish folk tune. The music is pointing backwards towards the first edition of Kebnekajse, and even further back to Mecki Mark Men, Baby Grandmothers and T-Boones, the bands that Kebnekajse was born from.
After ”The elephant” Kenny Håkansson also left the band, and instead he made a solo album ”Springlekar och gånglåtar” (1978). And by that Kebnekajse ceased to exist, I dare to say. Of course it is rude to write, as I did also in the booklet to the first album ”Resa mot okänt mål” (A journey to destination unknown), that Kenny is the brain, heart and soul of Kebnekajse. But the fact is that when other members disappeared, the music still sounded like Kebnekajse. Even on the afro album you could clearly hear that it is Kebnekajse playing.
But without Kenny Håkansson’s very special way of playing the guitar, without his soft and warm guitartone, his very ”Swedish tone”, that I thought I heard way back in 1964-65 when Kenny played in the popband T-Bones, the music of Kebnekajse became silent.
Mats Glenngård, Thomas Netzler and Hassan Bah started a new and last edition of Kebnekajse (with Per Lejring, piano, moog and Pelle Holm, drums) and they recorded an album ”Vi drar vidare” (1978) with symphonic Genesis inspired music. The band is Kebnekajse by name but not by music. As Mats puts it: ” It was a start to something that hardly was Kebnekajse.”
The text is a mixture of what his own eyes and ears remembers from the time and conversations with the members of Kebnekajse and other hear sayings.
Members around the time of the third ”brown” album ”III”:
Kenny Håkansson, electric guitar and vocal, has after Kebnekajse been a member of rockreggae band ”Dag Vag” (under his artist name Beno Zeno), Bill’s Boogie Band and Lisa Ekdahl. He has also recorded albums in his own name f ex ”2177 meters above sea level” (the title referrs to the height of the mountain Kebnekajse) and ”Hjärtats gåtbok” (musical interpretations of poems by Swedish poets) and has also produced for some other arrtists. The young rockers of Dia Psalma have hired Kenny as a session musician.
Pelle Ekman, drums, made a single with the (hard)rock band ”Dyngrak” and plays today covers as a hobby in
the band ”Tomas and the tomatoes”.
Göran Lagerberg, bass, has after Kebnekajse been a member in Egba, later in Bolon Bata and Grymlings. After the time with Kebnekajse also a session musican with Ahmady Jarr, Hawkey Franzén and Eldkvarn. Is today a memebr of a jazzband and has a trio together with Stefan Ringbom and Anders Forslund (The Mascots and Fria Proteatern).
Mats Glenngård, violin, guitar and mandoline, made his second solo album and continued as a session musician with Cornelis Vreeswijk, Fred Åkerström, ABBA, Janne Schaffer, Adolfsson & Falk, Ulf Lundell and Eldkvarn. Has lately been playing some Irish music with the group Green.
Thomas Netzler, bass, was a member of Happy Boys Band/Bush Band. (Also Rolf Scherrer, guitarist in the first edition of Kebnekajse was a member of Happy Boys Band). Also participates on the single with Dyngrak.
Pelle Lindström, vocal, harmonica, fiddle, has made an solo album and been a singer in Urban Turban. Is now playing in many groups in different surroundings – as Wentus Blues Band, Leksands tunes and firends, Hay-Dukes and Lindström’s unmodern threesome. Also participating in the local theatre written by his father Rune Lindström.
Gunnar Andersson, drums, died before the third album was recorded.
Ingemar Böcker, guitar, has during his career played with different tupes of groups as Rock-Boris, telefon Paisa, Christer Boustedt, Bernt Rosengren, Emil Irwing, Svensson’s Peace and Nanni Porres. Is today a member of the jazz club Syds (South) house band and are sometimes playing with the poet Einar Heckscher (former member of Telefon Paisa).
Hassan Bah, congas, timbales, congoma (African thumb piano), bell and vocals, started the group Happy Boys Band, and has later been active in Finland with Hasse Wallis’ group Afro Line and Piirpauke. Is playing on records with Cornelis Vreetwijk, Johnny Dyani, Zifa and Eric Bibb.
Translated by Eva Wilke