A Swedish Folk Sensation Walks into a Hotel . . .
With a voice that just barely tops a whisper and a demure disposition, the minor Swedish indie-folk sensation Victoria Bergsman may have expected that she would be invisible when she traveled to Lahore, Pakistan. It didn’t work out that way. She was spit on at a religious celebration and forced to fake a marriage to her traveling companion, a recording engineer and musical collaborator. The pair walked into a hotel that advertised Sufi music nights on the Internet. They carried a laptop and two microphones. Bergsman was exactly where she wanted to be: far from home and the clinical studio environment she abhorred. They found the proprietor and told him they were looking for musicians to interpret Bergsman’s songs and record an album. The man told them it was a holy month, and a dangerous time for a Western woman to be recording with Muslim men. He also told them he’d be happy to help. For 10 days Bergsman and her companion crammed into the proprietor’s home and recorded music between power outages with more than two dozen men. Bergsman says she was “doing something almost illegal” and constantly feared that she and the musicians would be discovered. Somehow, that fear never passed through the microphones: Bergsman’s soft songs left Lahore with the grace of cross-cultural collaboration and none of its inherent tensions.