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Interviews |  26 Dec 2009 17:08 |  By chiragsutar

Swedish singer Meja - "India to me seems like a fun market... but what I like is the mindset, and in that terms its same as Japan"

Swedish singer - songwriter Meja was on a short India tour recently. She  performed at the popular Mood Indigo Fest and city's live music hot spot Blue Frog, besides giving a memorable unplugged performance at the NCPA Theatre in Mumbai. Though she was was not in the best of her health as she suffered from a Pneumonia bout and a sprained ankle, Meja nevertheless impressed music lovers with her 'take it easy' style of singing.

In an free flowing chat with's Chirag Sutar, the visibly chilled out songwriter spoke about everything under the sun - her fascination for Indian sounds - mainly the tabla, her first performance for a wedding (in India!), her new album Urban Gypsy, and about what appeals to her about the Japanese, and the Indian audiences. Read on to know more.. 

How was the show (Mood Indigo) this afternoon?

It was great... absolutely... It was totally fun... but we got (here) two days ago and I was a little jet lagged - it takes a while before you get in to the groove, but the show was great and the audience was fantastic.

Is this the first time you performed in India?

Yes, it was the first time I performed... Actually I did perform at a wedding (laughs) but that was just a very spontaneous thing some two or three years ago - just for fun. I was only there for a holiday and during that time  we were invited for this wedding by a friend and I said, 'what the heck .. lets go and perform!'... but well, this is the first organized tour.  

And you are here during the Christmas time.. missing home?

Well, we were trying to escape the whole Christmas thing, but I don't think we really did... because as soon as we walked into a hotel here, I heard all the Christmas songs played in a loop! (laughs) The only thing I miss is my grandmother because its a tradition to go and meet. But I have never been a big Christmas person .. its not my thing .. I think Christmas for me would be having dinner with freinds... back home its more of a family thing. I like meeting people, have a good meal, maybe light a candle... but then the whole commercial thing ..i don't like that .. i don't support that ..Sweden is very much Christmas.  

You are not touring in other parts of India? Why?

Well, we thought that this is a good start.. you do a couple of performances and get a feel of the things.

Many musicians from the west are fascinated by the Indian sounds. Are you?

I have been using it a lot, but I haven't used it as much as I wanted because there has always been a producer involved and all the producers I have worked with they know that when it comes to the Indian sounds I would always want tabla's for percussions and that I would always bring in a sitar, and whenever I suggested that... they would be like , "Oh no.. here she goes again!". Well, they (producers) are not into that (Indian sounds)  but if you ask me, I have always felt something special about Indian sounds - I don't like drums, I like tabla and I like the earthy sound of tabla. Honestly, I can't stand the normal drum set... its so sharp.. I like the warm heavy feeling (for percussions) and not something that hurts, so I am probably a drummers nightmare!! (laughs)

Well, I read that you had your first big tour in Japan... what do you think clicked with the Japanese audience?

Even though I am Swedish, Japan has been my main market. In Japan, I have done tours in a different way .. but yet I have never done a tour in Sweden - so Japan is my home. In Sweden I have do a few shows, some festival tours etc. I have been recording since 1993, and I feel i don't fit there (Sweden) and I am probably too spaced out! Mostly, I go to Japan and I work there. Most of the artistes I know tour all the time but I don't do that.. but I am fine anyway.. 

Do you also do a lot of collaborations there?

Not so much - its mainly for television programmes. We are planning a special release for spring time where I am collaborating with a Japanese singer - she's known as a the Japanese Joni Mitchell. I have translated her lyrics into English and I am doing a covers album with her for the Japanese market 

And what do you think about the Indian market?

India to me seems like a fun market.. but what I like is the mindset - and in that terms its same as Japan. For instance, after the concert a lot of people came and met me backstage for autographs.. and asked me about lyrics.. and I think, thats exactly what  the Japanese do.. there's an interest behind the song - they are following the lyrics... and I really like that... but the British like the catchy tunes on the radio .. its not so sophisticated in that way 

goes on..

There is an American coach called Anthony Robbins - I had attended one of his seminar's recently and he said, "you find happiness when you resonate with your environment" .. and I think thats true in terms of music and its different markets -  when the music resonates with the market, then it works. For me, Japan works perfectly and maybe there are other markets who will understand what I am about or what my music is about and then there would be other markets that just can't get your music and that too is completely OK!!... every thing's OK (laughs)  

Tell me about your new album. What kind of sound does it have?

This album is different from all the other music mainly because its the first album that I have produced myself. The whole product is something that I have done myself - So I have been involved with every little thing on the album from mixing sounds, drum sounds, bass sounds, doing art work, choosing the photographers - it's been a long trip and along journey. In   that sense the album sounds different because I have done it myself. Also, I have done this album on my own label and after my album was ready, I brought in Sony Sweden (music label) everything is recorded with live musicians and top of that we added some electronica... so it s mix of organic and electronica.

Why did you title the album Urban Gypsy?

Yes, Urban Gypsy..  because during the time I was recording it, I lived in Nashville, Los Angeles, London, Stockholm and Goa. I have been traveling all over the place and finding people who I can collaborate with - so I have been traveling like an Urban Gypsy with my little bag. This album is more like a diary from the period of I started recording it.  

Any specific song that you'd like to mention on the album ?

There was a different process for every song.. but there is a ballad called Don't look Down which I like a lot.. I have written that with Billy Steinberg.