Q&A with Hans-Peter Nilsson of Malmoe-Copenhagen Blues Connexion, a blues association in the region of Greater Copenhagen

"The blues has one outstanding ingredient - personality. It’s not about technic or scholarship, it’s just about - Being yourself!"

Hans-Peter Nilsson: Blues Connexion

Malmoe-Copenhagen Blues Connexion is a blues association in the region of Greater Copenhagen. It was founded in 2000. The prime idea is to support live Blues and Roots music in the region. The association is not profit making, it's driven by enthusiasts and all income goes right back into the business. The Board are: Hans-Peter Nilsson, chairman; Håkan Sehlin, secretary; Janåke Pålsson, accountant; Ingvar Formby; Mats Hansson. The European Blues Challenge 2022 is organized by Malmoe-Copenhagen Blues Connexion with the European Blues Union, will be held in Malmö (3-4 June 2022) in the south of Sweden. Malmö is the 3rd biggest city in Sweden, housing 350 thousand inhabitants. It was founded by the Danes in the 13th century but since the 17th century it has been a Swedish city. For many years Malmö was known as a heavy industrial city but during the last decades it has turned into a modern university city with modern architecture and a sparkling cultural life.

(The Board of Malmoe-Copenhagen Blues Connexion, Greater Copenhagen / Photo by Steve Howard)

The city is a part of Greater Copenhagen and is connected with the Danish capital by a bridge. The place for the venue is the Baltiska Hallen (Baltic Hall). It’s a sports arena in the southern part of the city, 2 kilometers from the center. It was built in 1964 and houses 4000 visitors. Besides sport events it has held numerous concerts during the years among which the Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, BB King and Chuck Berry could be mentioned. Hosts during The 10th Blues Challenge will be Lisa Lystam and Johan Lundén. Lisa Lystam is one of the best known bluessinger in Sweden and also a band leader and harmonica player. 2015 she represented Sweden at EBC in Brussels. Johan Lundén is a Swedish entertainer. For 30 years he has been working as a moderator, actor and musician at all various events but as soon he got the time he picks up his harmonica and play the blues with his friends. He hosted the Swedish Blues Challenge 2019.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues music and culture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Talking of myself, we had a blues band in my mother’s garage when I was 15 years old. Well, I didn’t realize it until long time later, but this was the start of my bluesy life. And since then, my only interest has been ‘blue’ music. So, I guess you could say that most of my life has been colored by those blue notes in all aspects.

Though, note that blues for me is not just the blues music itself but also contain the whole family of jazz, gospel and soul music. They are all in the same bag, I know everyone does not agree on that. You can call it black music, Afro-American or whatever but they all got this thing about the rhythm and the groove. The gift from Africa… Listen to blue and reading about the old blues musicians also has made me understand a lot about the American history, special the early 20 century. The slavery, the cotton farms and the urbanization.

What characterize MCBC philosophy and mission? What´s been the highlights in MCBC history, since 2000.

We are a voluntary association working to support live blues (and root) music in our region. We run a blues festival every year since 20 years, mainly with Swedish/Danish artists. We also have some blues jam and education in a small scale. We used to have club-events but the market has not been so good the last years. Now when the epidemic hopefully has ceased this might change.    (Photo: Hans-Peter Nilsson with Embargo, 1976)

"The idea came up 5-6 years ago, but the work started 2018 when we got hold of some interested sponsors and in 2019 we offered our service at the EBU’s general assembly. A successful festival needs a big audience of course, to bring a lot of money! But besides that, what you really want to achieve is an openhearted get together for all blues lovers and blues workers, where people learn to know each other, maybe play together, learn from each other and return home full of inspiration."

Why do you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following in Malmoe-Copenhagen area?

I don’t know about if our region is different, but most music today has its roots in the roots music and if you are interested in music, sooner or later you find the way to the blues. Scandinavia has an educational system that supported music which led to a lot of ‘home musicians’. There is a strong tradition to enjoy ‘quality’ music (besides the commercial hit- and pop music) and an awareness of music history and respect and appreciation of the old masters.

Denmark, our close neighbors, is a small country but has raised a large amount of brilliant and dedicated blues- and jazz musicians. Through the years they had a prosperous cultural politics it seems, supporting the live scene. The jazz and blues still have a stronghold here.

When and how did the idea of EBC 2022 come about? What do you think is key to a successful EBC?

The idea came up 5-6 years ago, but the work started 2018 when we got hold of some interested sponsors and in 2019 we offered our service at the EBU’s general assembly. A successful festival needs a big audience of course, to bring a lot of money! But besides that, what you really want to achieve is an openhearted get together for all blues lovers and blues workers, where people learn to know each other, maybe play together, learn from each other and return home full of inspiration.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Well, there is always this fear that the blues will lose the blues… The rock music, among others, is spilling back on the blues. Not always a bad thing but the rock is not blues! Blues is dynamic, sensual and sophisticated which rock is not. (At least not in my opinion…). It’s not about good or bad music, it’s just that the rock and blues music have different functions both in the society and for the listeners himself.

There is also a risk, that I noticed in recent years, that with the good aim to make blues more popular that producers try to sell all kinds of music as blues, just confusing the listeners and watering down the core of the blues music. Let the blues be blues!

"I don’t know about if our region is different, but most music today has its roots in the roots music and if you are interested in music, sooner or later you find the way to the blues. Scandinavia has an educational system that supported music which led to a lot of ‘home musicians’. There is a strong tradition to enjoy ‘quality’ music (besides the commercial hit- and pop music) and an awareness of music history and respect and appreciation of the old masters. Denmark, our close neighbors, is a small country but has raised a large amount of brilliant and dedicated blues- and jazz musicians. Through the years they had a prosperous cultural politics it seems, supporting the live scene. The jazz and blues still have a stronghold here." (Photo: Hans-Peter Nilsson on stage jammin' with Stellan Iry, Malmo Sweden 2019)

If you could change one thing in the European Blues world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

A lot of small blues clubs in all European cities would be nice as the blues often suits better in small clubs, with a close contact to the audience, than at big festivals.

What is the impact of Blues on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the Blues music to affect people?

A difficult question. I don’t see blues as a political weapon. I think it’s personal. The Blues tells stories about life – It should reflect all parts of life and should follow you when you are sad, sorrow, happy, horny or just in the everyday life.

From another angle, blues has already affected most all kind of modern music and is the very foundation for country, rock and popular music of today. Probably no music genre has had such an influence ever…

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the blues music paths?

The blues has one outstanding ingredient - personality. It’s not about technic or scholarship, it’s just about - Being yourself!

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