Sweden has a famously open and inclusive policy when it comes to immigration, resulting in an increasingly multicultural society in many of the nation’s cities. It is estimated that 75 languages are spoken in the southern city of Malmö alone. And while of course there are challenges for those new to Sweden, with language barriers and potential unemployment, there are certain provisions to make the transition easier: the Malmö library has a language café where people can learn Swedish in a relaxed environment, and there are volunteers who help expats make sense of the country’s welfare system.
Musik i Syd, which promotes music in southern Sweden, is one such organisation that encourages multicultural integration. ‘We programme a lot of concerts for people who have recently moved to Malmö,’ says Peter Wilgotsson, international relations manager at Musik i Syd. ‘We also see a lot of highly skilled musicians, who were playing at a national level in their own country, but they come here and suddenly they’re nobody. We discover many musicians in that way, and present them in performances.’
Tarabband is one such group to have benefitted from Musik I Syd’s support. Based in Malmö, the group is led by Iraqi-Egyptian singer Nadin Al Khalidi, and bills itself as ‘Arabic music from Sweden’.
‘Musik i Syd wishes to create meeting points where sound artists, composers and performers from many cultural backgrounds can come together in a context of mutual learning,’ continues Wilgotsson.
The organisation, which has offices in Malmö, Växjö, Kristianstad, and Lund, collaborates with local presenters and producers to stage national and international artists, ensembles, choirs and orchestras. Thanks to an expansive network of arrangers across Sweden, the organisation covers a large geographic area, offering everything from concerts and festivals in the big cities of Malmö, Helsingborg, Lund and Växjö to concert offerings in districts such as Simrishamn, Tingsryd and Ängelholm.
In 2012, Musik i Syd reached an estimated 290,000 people through more than 3,000 concerts – half of which were for children and younger audiences. Wilgotsson believes that as well as reaching out to children in schools, bringing them into concert halls is key. ‘We want people to really experience the music physically, not only with their ears.’
Musik i Syd promotes a range of music, spanning jazz, classical, and folk, so audiences who tend to listen exclusively to one genre are encouraged to branch out and experience other styles.‘We want people to be curious,’ adds Wilgotsson. ‘And young people tend to be open to most kinds of music so we’re able to present something that’s exciting for them.’
The organisation also presents a number of festivals, including Music Around, an event that features all five symphony orchestras of the Øresund region, and Korrö Folkmusikfestival, Sweden’s largest folk music festival.
Musik i Syd is also responsible for Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival, Båstad Chamber Music Festival and employs two full-time ensembles, Musica Vitae and Ensemble Mare Balticum.
Musica Vitae consists of 15 stringed instrument players. Based in Växjö, it tours extensively across southern Sweden and the Øresund area, as well as internationally. Ensemble Mare Balticum, with its six musicians, is Sweden’s only full-time ensemble for early music.
The concert hall in Kristianstad and the Palladium in Malmö – a stage for music and modern dance – are run by Musik i Syd. Both of these venues produce several hundred concerts a year.
Musik i Syd is also a co-presenter of the 2015 International Society for the Performing Arts Congress, which will take place from 25-30 May next year in Malmö and Copenhagen. Expected to draw around 350 arts professionals from more than 40 countries, it will be held in part at the new cultural centre Malmö Live, due to open in 2015.