"Danish" diva takes jazz back to the USA

11.03.13 | News
Caroline Henderson
Teddy Wolff
Swedish-American Caroline Henderson takes part in the Nordic Cool festival in Washington DC. Here she gives jazz a special Nordic tone, with a touch of Scandinavian humour and subtlety.

Caroline Henderson is half-Swedish, half-American, brought up partly in Paris and now lives in Copenhagen. A true citizen of the world - made in Europe - and yet very Nordic in her expression.

"With my background it actually makes sense that I am part of this festival. I have my American and Nordic legacy and try to give it my own expression", says Henderson after her concert at the Kennedy Center, USA's national theatre, where the major cultural festival Nordic Cool is taking place in February and March. 

"Jazz comes from the USA of course, but we have really taken it on board in the Nordic countries and given it our own blue tone, a little melancholy and a whole lot of ingenuity.

Henderson's own father came to Europe himself in the 50s to play his music and live a freer life than he could in USA at that time. Like so many other jazz musicians he found refuge in the Nordic countries. Paradoxically, however, most Americans consider Europe to be old-fashioned and very traditional", says Henderson.

"Americans are fascinated by our old culture. But actually we are really innovative in the Nordic countries. This comes to expression in our music and our culture in general. It bubbles with creativity and it is incredible that an area as small as the Nordic Region has so many artists of really high standard, as we have", she emphasises. 

Nordic wave?

Music is an area in which the Nordic countries are strong. Food, design and architecture are other ones, stresses Henderson.

"But I don't know whether you can talk about a definite Nordic wave. Is it not rather more of a steady stream, which has always been there?" she asks.

At Nordic Cool there are participating artists from all five Nordic countries, as well as Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Åland. And when you are there at the festival there is naturally a great big brotherhood. However, in day to day life there is not always much co-operation", says Henderson.

"Actually I don't think that we musicians co-operate very much across the Region and, in fact, we are perhaps not very good at helping one another, when it comes to the crunch", says the singer, who has no plans of moving back to Sweden, even though she loves the language and the nature. 

Henderson is, however, impressed by the programme put together by the Kennedy Center.

"Nordic Cool is an exciting and extremely broad programme. We are getting into all the nooks and crannies and I think it is rather brave, that so much that is not mainstream has been included", she concludes.

For her part, Henderson is releasing her album "Lonely House" on 25 March, which includes an interpretation of something as European as Kurt Weill - Bertolt Brecht's musical partner. But still she has taken the time to visit her second homeland, USA, to take part in the Nordic Cool festival in Washington DC.

Nordic Cool 2013

Nordic Cool will run from 19 February to 17 March 2013 in Washington and brings theatre performances, concerts, film screenings, literature readings, architecture, design and crafts, as well as a number of seminars and talks with key figures from the Nordic art and cultural environments. 

Nordic Cool 2013 is presented in co-operation with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Nordic embassies in Washington and the national art and cultural exchange programmes in the respective Nordic countries, as well as Greenland, Åland and the Faroe Islands.

In addition to the extensive artistic programme there will be side events with a focus on the political priorities and core values of the Nordic countries including green growth, sustainable welfare, gender equality, and climate and energy.

The Nordic Council of Ministers has supported the festival, as have the respective Nordic countries.