My name is Zofia – I’m a Copenhagen girl midway in life, the main ingredient of which is music. My soundproof apartment keeps traffic noise and complaining neighbors away; I can sing and practice as I like – a mix of jazz and pop – served in elegant wrapping and a clear voice, a whisper at times; constantly backed up by an active body language.
Performers and musicians seem to grow on trees in Copenhagen; I am just part of the undergrowth, where frustrations and hard work go hand in hand. My possible strength seems to come naturally; the somewhat restless way I perform, which often makes people open their eyes and ears wide the first time. And my weakness might be the “sweet girl” that my friends sometimes see in me, worried that I help too much and claim too little.
My creativity is growing wild at times. Like now – I’m absorbed in the Little Mermaid, after seeing on TV that she is going to China for eight months to become the main attraction in the Danish Pavilion at the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai. The government simply shanghaied her, and the municipal authorities, whose property she is, cooperated. They turned a national jewel into a traveling fundraiser, a completely new experience in the long life of the little lady; in 2013 turning 100.
To compensate for the loss of the Little Mermaid, a very famous Chinese artist – Ai Weiwei – has been hired to erect a huge piece of installation art – including videos focusing on the Mermaid’s long journey and showing what’s on in Shanghai this minute. There is a risk that Expo viewers content themselves with the fairytale Mermaid, bad luck for participating companies.
Politically responsible is the Lord Mayor of the Environment and Technology section, at that time Klaus Bondam – a former actor and theater leader. It’s incredible that he of all people did not understand the nature of the Mermaid. She represents the irrational and inexplicable sides of tourism; removing her is an insult to every single visitor, for in their hearts, they all reserved a corner just for the Mermaid.
To see for myself, I rush to Langelinie on my bike, it’s time to act. The poor Mermaid is gone already, including the stone base. No trace of Chinese installations. The place is crying out for a replacement, and this is where I come in – I ‘m going to suggest myself as a Mermaid substitute for the coming eight months. My size is right, and I am not mute like the original at all, but intend to entertain the tourists and let them buy things from my basket – like beautiful ties with not so precious stones; my own make, of course.
Mr. Bondam tries to find a suitable grimace but has no arguments or hesitations that can match my energy and determination. I gladly admit being a very late riser, so daily meeting hours at Langelinie from 10 o’clock are definitely a compromise to accommodate visitors. Gaily dressed and with a huge flower in my hair, I shall gather tourists at my homemade tail, enlighten them about this Mermaid’s whereabouts and suggest they come to my next evening concert.
I must not forget to update my showcase before leaving. One message is constant, though; that a very small copy of the true Mermaid can be found in Tivoli, down at the Lake, the copy also created by Edvard Eriksen. The other message depends on my evening program, which tonight says Zofia’s Trio at the Children’s Theater in the Free Town of Christiania, at 10 o’clock. The place is also the home of the well-reputed Christiania Jazz Club.
A free town
It takes courage to enter Christiania on an early spring night, it’s very dark and rather difficult to find the various establishments. Not for me of course, as the Free Town was my haven for extended periods in my younger days, after I left home at a very early age, practically a child. There is an excursion around Christiania in the summer period, here and now you can ask me instead or listen to “Christiania in my heart” or “The pusher girl’s song”, two of my compositions.
The Jazz Club is painted black, peeling here and there. Primitive chairs and benches are still empty, the cheap bar open. Carlito on piano is here, so is Esteban on bass, I myself need to clear my voice to make it shine in competition with my red dress, slim and short and new today, the mega flower in my hair is fastened to withstand a hyperactive head. The lady in the bar combines a sporty appearance with the sale of cheap Christiania beers and has her own opinions about music.
“Let’s start – carefully!” Jazz evergreens gradually paper the room, a harmony that spreads and attracts a crowd, some of them tourists who deserve an English welcome. A smell of smoke is also spreading – rather sweet and does not necessarily come from tobacco. While I bend, turn and stretch, introvert at times, my microphone moves high and low to produce exactly the sound I want. Such improvisations characterize my song universe.
Back and forth
My next stop in the Copenhagen nightlife is a piano bar, Cafe Intime, located on the more posh Frederiksberg. Old age, small size, live music, mixed clientele – such a combination makes a hit. Another hit should be on its way – a collection made by recent in-house musicians. Grumpy old regulars who still come here after 40 years, will in the future be put on a shelf high up on the wall, thereby not disturbing the younger generations, says a teasing Lars, the owner.
A piano without a piano man; Carlito has let me down, and I need the sympathy of the audience – accomplished by walking up and down with gesticulations and a red-hot mobile. After one hour, a small man under a sizable sixpence appears behind the piano and makes everybody happy, and I kept my promise from facebook – it’s going to be a wonderful evening for lovely people.
Some week later – back to Christiania’s special harmony, this time in its own Opera, much cozier than the neighboring Royal Opera out at Holmen. It’s a double concert, first out is Carpenter Claus Band, who leaves the stage to me with a recommendation: “One of Denmark’s best voices!” Tonight singing on penicillin, I could add. Zofia with Django Friends is made up of Carlito and Swing Royal Trio on guitars and bass. No superlative is golden enough for these guys.
With the Little Mermaid in China, my own future looks quite bright – lots of opportunities to create an image for myself. Her return does not worry me much, for she will be faced with one of Europe’s strictest immigration policies, which may easily spoil her upcoming anniversary. In the meantime, I enjoy her prestige and lend her my voice on request: “Sing Little Mermaid – sing!”
Illustrations by Zofia Hedvard