Although she claims she is a bit lazy with it these days, Annika is fluent in Swedish, the result of diligent work on her mother’s part.
“I don’t speak it much now, because most Swedes are so eager to speak English, but my mother always spoke Swedish to us when we grew up. There was a time when me and my brother translated things for her, because we thought she didn’t understand English!”
It was nine years ago when Annika met Jon, a musician, and they hit it off right away. Jon was quickly introduced to the magic of summers in Stockholm.
“The people in Stockholm are just so cool and hip,” he marvels. “They have the right kind of clothes, the right kind of haircuts. And of course, Sweden is a gorgeous country, very clean. Life operates very well there.”
For Annika, Sweden symbolizes her childhood summers. She was sent to her grandparents in Sweden the first day of summer break and was there until school in New York beckoned again in the fall.
“My grandparents had a house in Huddinge, which was then not considered a suburb but more like the countryside. That’s where I learned to bike, I picked ‘smultron’ and went to camp there.
"What Sweden means most to me, is an appreciation for nature. I am also constantly amazed at how efficient everything is there. Swedes used SMS ten years before we did. I think Sweden is very much ahead when it comes to technology. The same goes with recycling. For years I brought my batteries to have them recycled in Sweden. Now Whole Foods take batteries for recycling.”
Recycling is important to both Annika and Jon, as is a general thoughtfulness when it comes to our planet. After having mastered the art of properly stuffing a chicken as taught by the naked chef, Jamie Oliver, they both promptly became vegetarians.
“Although I wouldn’t call myself a Buddhist, I am very into Eastern philosophy, Krishnamurti and so on. We’ve greenified our lives. To me it’s all part of keeping a positive perspective. Music is a great way to connect with people, and at the moment I am into writing upbeat, positive music with a strong beat. A strong beat cannot deny itself, you know? It’s too easy to be negative. And being positive, well it always starts with you.”
Although she sang in a cappella groups in college, Annika is a kindergarten teacher who had no thoughts about a career in music when she met Jon. At first Jon included her mainly to test harmonies. Little by little, though, she got more involved, eventually becoming an equal partner. And Jon’s music evolved accordingly.
“When I first met Jon, his music was very loud and aggressive and scary. I didn’t like it. Now it’s different. And people always comment that we sound great together.”
Jon agrees. His music now centers on the kind of danceable, synthesizer-fueled music they both grew up with in the 1980s: Phil Collins, Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon. And of course ABBA.
“They’re great,” says Jon. “‘Dancing Queen’ is just such a great song!”
Jonka has gone through several musical incarnations, aided by Jon’s wide knowledge of and interest in different music styles. Their latest CD, “Slow and Steady Wins the Race,” is an electro-pop album featuring several strong tracks with sing-along appeal.
“You can do so much with that. You don’t need huge recording studios. You can do it all on your computer.”
Next, Jonka will perform May 21 at Canal Room in New York City. They've also been invited to be part of a guest panel on sustainability and green practices at L’Oreal USA headquarters in New York. There they will be discussing their passion for the environment and how they’ve been able to make the connection with their music and their promotional methods. The packaging for “Slow and Steady Wins the Race,” for instance, is constructed from recycled paper, recycled plastic bottles and all vegetable-based inks.
Upcoming shows include: Friday May 21, 8 pm, Jonka live at Canal room. For more info:
For more info on Jonka: