Revisiting Kvibergs kaserner – the home of GMLSTN JAZZ

Olle Stenbäck

In order to move focus further towards potential links between jazz music and heritage sites/grounds, we’re currently revisiting GMLSTN JAZZ’s initial outpost, the Gothenburg military heritage site Kvibergs kaserner, classified as a ‘notable building’ back in 1971. Our goal is to analyze the already collected material and pinpoint dialogues (modes of engaging) with the past and elevate notions on the potential relationship(s) between jazz music – as a world heritage – and physical remnants of the past.

Kvibergs kaserner – the home of GMLSTN JAZZ.

The GMLSTN JAZZ festival has resided at Kvibergs kaserner since the very beginning, although its importance – as a result of transforming the festival into a (even more) dispersed event – have somewhat declined. Still, Kvibergs kaserner represents the beginning of the festival: it’s where the GMLSTN JAZZ narrative starts, and harbors several important symbolic aspects connoting the heritage discourse.

Festival posters at the doors of the Cantina.

In the process of engaging with the past certain merits are claimed. In the case of jazz festivals, engaging with the past to claim authenticity and legitimacy is not a far-fetched guess. In relation to the process of marketization, residing at such a site might also add value not only to the specific festival but to jazz music in general and, consequently, emphasize its significance even on non-specific jazz venues downtown.

Even though the 2017 edition of the festival will no longer reside at Kvibergs kaserner, the site outlines the prequel of the GMLSTN JAZZ narrative. What significants does Kviberg carry?

More to follow.

From popular music to “rocking chair jazz” – stories about traditional jazz in Gothenburg


A report from Merja Liimatainen, University of Gothenburg

According to the members of the Classic Jazz society, Gothenburg is the New Orleans of the Nordic countries. When jazz music became known over large parts of the world in the 1920s and 1930s, it also found its way to Sweden. Jazz music probably came to Gothenburg via Svenska Amerikalinjen, the New York-Gothenburg shipping line. Gothenburg was thereby jazz music’s first port of call in Sweden.

“One important contributing factor was that we had the “America ships” here in Gothenburg and Swedish musicians took jobs on these boats purely so as to be able to get across to New York and go and listen to famous jazz musicians, buy records and bring them back to Sweden. Likewise, many of the jazz bands from the USA came over on the ships to Sweden and often played in Gothenburg when the ships were berthed in the port.” (Tom, Classic Jazz society)

Around 1920, there were several foreign bands in Gothenburg and probably local bands as well that played at underground clubs, restaurants and cafés. At that time, jazz was associated with modernity, sophistication and decadence. This part of the city’s jazz history has been very sparsely documented. The main focus has been on the 1940s and 1950s which was the heyday period of traditional jazz music in Sweden. By then, musical influences were coming from England, not New York. The Swedish term tradjazz comes from the English term traditional jazz. Referring to Dixieland, Tom explains that many influences have been exchanged between Gothenburg and London and there were strong links between jazz scenes.

“That is perhaps why the music that is called traditional or classical jazz has been somewhat more firmly anchored here in Gothenburg than in Stockholm and many musicians here play in the same way as this kind of jazz was played in England.” (Tom, Classic Jazz)

The 1940s: the wave of traditional jazz

Gothenburg’s first traditional jazz band: “Hip” Hot Circle Jazz Band on tour in 1947. Taken from Wågerman 2010:139.
Gothenburg’s first traditional jazz band: “Hip” Hot Circle Jazz Band on tour in 1947. Taken from Wågerman 2010:139.

The 1940s saw the start of the era that Ingemar, another of Classic Jazz’s mainstays, calls the revival period. The young musicians of that time went back to the roots of jazz music in order to rediscover the original and genuine style of jazz and revive the music that black musicians played in New Orleans in the early 20th century. It was during the revival period that modern jazz, bebop, came to Gothenburg. This was also a reaction against “commercial” swing music. Ingemar explains that bebop changed jazz from dance-friendly popular music to innovative art, the music of musicians, that is to say, music to be listened to which was regarded even then as being of a better and finer class than the old, traditional jazz. Both camps believed they were “tremendously hip” in the early 1950s. At the same time, people were not so obsessed with different styles initially. There were several jazz competitions where the same musicians could perform in both the modern and Dixie categories.

Today, there are no active bands from the 1940s anymore. My informants and many of the Classic Jazz society’s active musicians and members were born in that decade. They were not active on Gothenburg’s jazz scene until they were teenagers in the 1950s and 1960s.

The 1950s: the golden era of school band jazz

“This is for those of you who remember the school dances of the 50s and 60s” proclaimed one of the members of Peoria Jazzband from the stage at a jazz evening on S/S Marieholm, organised by the Classic Jazz Göteborg society. In the 1950s, most musicians and traditional jazz bands got to know each other at upper secondary school and they started out by playing at school dances. Later, new constellations could arise via meetings and jam sessions at jazz clubs.

School band jazz: Magnolia Jazzband (1953-1957), one of Gothenburg’s “best” school bands, playing Dixieland at Kålltorp’s youth centre in 1955. Taken from Wågerman 2010:157
School band jazz: Magnolia Jazzband (1953-1957), one of Gothenburg’s “best” school bands, playing Dixieland at Kålltorp’s youth centre in 1955. Taken from Wågerman 2010:157

It was almost exclusively young men who played in these bands. Most of the traditional jazz musicians were self-taught and after upper secondary school and then studies at university/college, some of them continued to play in their spare time alongside their professional careers.  For most of them, music-making has never been a job; it’s been a hobby that has been pursued together with the people they socialised with. Several of the people who started playing in school bands at the end of the 50s and in the early 60s are now members of the Classic Jazz Göteborg society.

In 1950, Gothenburg’s most talked about and famous traditional/ revival jazz band, Landala Original Red Hot Stompers, was started up (1950-1969). The band is described as being a collective of art students and Valand pupils who played New Orleans/revival jazz and lived together in Kåken, a large, dilapidated house in an old part of Gothenburg. The house became a meeting place for art students, artists, writers, actors and bohemians in Gothenburg. It no longer exists today, nor are there any recordings of Landala Original Red Hot Stompers. The band played for the last time at the end of the 1960s, at a time when pop and rock music had begun to take over more and more of the music scene and had become the new popular music in Gothenburg. Jazz began to be increasingly seen as being highbrow culture and art music. Very few traditional jazz bands survived but Peoria (1960) and Tant Bertas Jasskapell (1963), founded in the early 1960s, are two of the oldest traditional jazz bands in Gothenburg that are still active today.

1970s and 1980s: a new chapter

In the 1970s, school band musicians from the 50s and 60s had grown up and many of them had left the jazz scene or gone over to other forms of music. In 1977, the Tradjazz Göteborg society was founded; it later changed its name to Classic Jazz Göteborg. The Jazzhuset club organised many activities including jazz evenings several times a week. In 1988, the owner of Jazzklubben, Ulf Albrektsson, organised the first jazz festival in Gothenburg, Tradjazzfestivalen i Göteborg, which was the predecessor of today’s Göteborg Classic Jazz festival. In the 1990s, Jazzhuset was struck by the recession, the changing tastes of the general public and declining audiences which led to 1960s rock music coming back and taking over the scene. By the end of the 1990s, there was no longer any jazz at all in Jazzhuset. Since the 1990s, traditional jazz has been called “rocking chair jazz” and is viewed as “no longer being culture” in the media and by reviewers. Nevertheless, every year Classic Jazz organises a handful of activities that are linked to classical/traditional jazz in Gothenburg: jazz evenings on S/S Marieholm, jazz cruises to Denmark, summer jazz in the city’s parks and church concerts. Little attention is paid to these activities by the “official” Gothenburg and the city’s cultural elite. There is also a new generation of young musicians and bands, such as The Gentlemen & Gangsters. This band plays traditional New Orleans hot jazz with a touch of swing. Playing mainly for the lindy hop community, they perform all over Europe on a regular basis.

An interesting closing comment is that up to now, the jazz history of the city has been written almost exclusively by men and about men, but women have always been present as dancing partners, listeners, mothers, wives, girlfriends and daughters with their own memories. From the perspective of cultural history, people who have been on the side-lines of the traditional jazz scene should also be given their fair share of space in the history of jazz.

Translated by Helene Brembeck


Wågerman, Ingemar (2010) Down by the Riverside: den traditionella jazzen i Göteborg med omnejd. Hönö: Ingemar Wågerman

Jazz festivals as assemblages for selecting, displaying and moving jazz in the present and towards the future

A position statement by Helene Brembeck and Niklas Sörum presented to the CHIME project team meeting, Amsterdam Conservatory, February 4 2016

In WP 2 we want to question the idea that cultural heritage is about the past, and preservation. Instead we see cultural heritage as a practice, which is not simply about the past, but also about the future: it is about valuing the past and about preserving for the future and for future generations. Jazz today can thus be regarded as residing in a past-present relation: it is about selecting what is considered worth saving and of finding new modern and attractive techniques of communicating for the present and of assembling for the future. This view of cultural heritage is in line with the “New heritage paradigm” (Holtorf and Fairclogh 2013) that acknowledges that heritage is neither ‘fixed’ nor ‘ inherent’ but emerges in dialogue among individuals, communities, practices, places and things.

logo400_framed_2016_engHeritage, or ‘heritages’, are always also plural, which means that different, sometimes conflicting futures can be assembled. This becomes obvious in the ‘competition’ between our two studied festivals in Gothenburg – Gamlestaden Jazz and Classic Jazz – of which ‘jazz past’ is to be saved and enacted in the present and assembled for the future. We follow Rodney Harrison (2013, 2015) stating that ‘heritage involves working with the tangible and intangible traces of the past to both materially and discursively remake both ourselves and the world in the present, in anticipation of an outcome that will help constitute a specific (social, economic, or ecological) resource in and for the future (Harrison 2015:35).

gmlstn-jazz-2014Harrison is inspired by neo-materialist thinkers, such as Deleuze and Latour and their aim to bridge divides between nature and culture, humans and non-humans, which means breaking the divide between tangible and intangible heritage: obviously jazz as intangible heritage is also very tangible, embodied and object-based.

Harrison bases his theses on what he names “connectivity ontologies” meaning ‘modalities of becoming in which life and place combine to bind time and living beings into generations of continuities that work collaboratively to keep past alive in the present and for the future’ (2015:27). This means that heritage can be seen as collaborative, dialogical and interactive, a material-discursive process in which past and future arise out of dialogue and encounter between multiple embodied subjects in (and with) the past (ibid.). Referring to Latour (2004), in this process, or what is described as a nature-culture assemblage, not only humans but also objects (music instruments, our comment) and practices (playing, dancing, our comment) have ‘rights’, which we may have obligations to attempt to uphold.

Harrison uses the term ‘domain’ to draw attention to the tendency for different fields of heritage practice to operate relatively autonomously, with each of these domains specifying particular objects of conservation and accompanying methods of management. Different heritage ontologies have different future-making capacities. Jazz can thus be considered as one such domain where a multiplicity of forms of existence are enacted in concrete practices, and ‘where politics becomes the elicitation of this manifold of potential for how things could be.’ (2015:34). This means that heritages can be defined as ‘a series of diplomatic properties that emerges in dialogue of heterogeneous human and non-human actors who are engaged in keeping pasts alive in the present and, which function towards assembling futures.’ (2015:28)

What about the jazz festival? Following Harrison the jazz festival can be regarded as an assemblage, a set of practices, or even ‘machine’ for ‘enacting new realities through contingent processes of assembling and reassembling bodies, technologies, materials, values, temporalities and meanings’ (2015:28). Practices specifically dealing with heritage-making across diverse contexts can be characterized as:

  • Categorizing (identifying, documenting, nominating, listing, recovering, enumerating)
  • Curating (collecting, selecting, attributing value)
  • Conserving (caring, preserving, storing, archiving, managing)
  • Communicating (using, interpreting, exhibiting)

All of which can be witnessed in the practices of assembling the jazz festivals, and most obviously, practices of communicating.

From these starting points the following research questions can be posed:

  • Where and how are pasts given presence at the two jazz festivals?
  • Which (jazz) pasts are envisioned?
  • Whose cultural heritage in terms of gender, generation, social class and ethnicity?
  • What are the networks that facilitate these processes?
  • What temporalities are produced by the two festivals and what are the implications of the different modes of engagement with the past, present and future that are generated at the two festivals?

More specifically in relation to marketisation:

  • How are aspects of cultural heritage explicitly or implicitly used in marketing, organization and enactment of the festivals?
  • How does cultural heritage become important in constructing a market for the festivals in relation to for example profit, pricing, sponsors, competition, use of social media and communicating with visitors?

Harrison, Rodney. 2015. Beyond “Natural and “Cultural” Heritage: Toward an Ontological Politics of Heritage in the Age of the Anthropocene. Heritage & Society, Vol. 8 No 1, May, 24-42.

Harrison, Rodney. 2013. Heritage: Critical Approaches. Routledge: Abingdon and N.Y.

Holtorf, Cornelius and Graham Fairclough. 2013. The New Heritage and the re-shapings of the past. In Reclaiming Archaeology: Beyond the Tropes of Modernity, edited by Alfredo González-Ruibal, pp. 197-2010. Routledge: Abingdon and New York.

Latour, Bruno. 2004. Politics of Nature. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.