Titiyo: Swedish music royalty

After a seven year break, Titiyo returns with a new sound and new enthusiasm. Keith Moore talks to the sister of Neneh and Eagle Eye Cherry about music, family, the past and the future.

Titiyo: Swedish music royalty
Photo: Annika Aschberg

Titiyo greets the staff at the chic Stockholm coffee shop with familiarity. Arriving straight from the gym, dressed casually and wearing little makeup, she looks healthy and 10 years younger than her 41 years.

Her family is Swedish music royalty, older sister is superstar Neneh Cherry and her brother is Eagle Eye Cherry, best known for the 1997 hit “Save Tonight.”

The winner of four Swedish Grammies, Titiyo returned with new album “Hidden” at the end of last year after a seven year hiatus and is about to embark on a summer of concerts and festivals. Once dubbed the “Queen of Swedish Soul,” her protracted timeout has given her a new spark of creativity and a different musical direction.

“I was listening to [Radiohead frontman] Thom Yorke’s solo album and it gave me a lot of inspiration,” she remembers. “It reminded me that a song doesn’t just have to be verse-chorus-verse.”

Having not written any songs for 2001 hit album “Come Along,” she admits it was a big step to start writing again. Encouragement from friends and family helped.

“I went to a music store and I wanted to buy the cheapest, oldest synthesizer – it was a monster!” she laughs.

“I took it down to the most basic level and once I started I couldn’t stop. I was almost in a trance,” she adds. “I would start at 11 at night and when my daughter woke at 7 the next morning I would still be working and she would wonder what I was doing.”

Titiyo grew up in an artistic house. Her father was a drummer from Sierra Leone and her mother performed in theatre. While she appreciates their influence now, she admits that it wasn’t always the case.

“I just wanted to fit in,” she says. “Guys all liked the blonde haired, blue eyed girls and being not only black, but hippies too, I could be so embarrassed when I was a teenager.”

She was also shy when it came to her voice.

“I would perform duets in my bedroom with Aretha Franklin when nobody else was in the house,” she recalls with a smile.

“Then one day I recorded myself and played it back to my Mum and she started crying.”

Siblings Neneh and Eagle Eye live in Stockholm too and she says although their conversations rarely turn to music, they are all very supportive of each others’ careers.

“Neneh has been one of the biggest influences in my life,” she says.

“My first album was released in England at the same time as hers and it was rough to be compared to her as it has never been a competition between us,” she says with frustration. “But when I look back now I looked so much like her and she laughs at me now for that.”

Titiyo talks with pride about her self-penned latest album and says she is finding new respect from an indie audience. She seems to have found her passion for music again.

“I want to keep the creativity going,” she enthuses, “I’m writing now and there will definitely not be another seven years of no albums.”

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What are the best concerts in Sweden this autumn?

Now that Sweden has lifted its audience restrictions for public events, The Local's Paul O'Mahony lists his recommendations for the best gigs to attend over the coming months.

Crowd at a music concert in Debaser, Stockholm
Crowds return to Stockholm venue Debaser after pandemic restrictions on events were lifted. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Sweden’s musicians, concert promoters and venue operators have struggled to varying degrees through the pandemic. One surefire way to help get them back on their feet is to give organisers and artists the financial reassurance they need by pre-booking concerts. 

Of course these recommendations only apply if you feel safe attending large events; remember that you should stay home and take a Covid-19 test if you experience any symptoms that could be linked to the virus, even if vaccinated. And make sure to check with organisers if there are any specific coronavirus requirements you need to be aware of. 

Coming up: top gigs in Sweden over the next few months 

As a regular gig-goer, live music is the one thing I’ve missed most over the past year and a half. So it is with some excitement (and, I’ll admit, a degree of trepidation) that I prepare to go see Norwegian band Pom Poko this Friday at Hus 7 in Stockholm. Their melodic art-punk album Cheater sparked the year into life on its release in January. They’re also playing Plan B in Malmö on Saturday night

Plan B is also the venue when Squid hit Sweden with a thrilling dose of post-punk on October 15th. Tickets remain available for the show at the time of writing (an absolute steal at 120 kronor), though that’s sadly not the case in Stockholm where their October 16th gig at Melodybox sold out a long time ago. (Although you can sign up to be added to a waiting list). 

Another artist well worth checking out in October is Gothenburg guitarist and singer Amanda Werne, better known as Slowgold. Her live shows are great and she is embarking on a Swedish tour on October 8th. 

Emma-Jean Thackray, one of the UK’s most interesting jazz artists, will be at Fasching in Stockholm on October 15th

For the best kind of sonic assault, Anna von Hasswolff’s band Bada are scheduled to play in Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg in late October. 

Have any of you ever seen Gothenburg electronic veterans Little Dragon live? I haven’t but might check them out in November when they swing by Malmö, Stockholm and Gothenburg

Amason are also heading out on the road for a Scandinavian tour in November. If you haven’t heard Amanda Bergman’s voice in a live setting before this will be a treat. 

The inimitable Sibille Attar released her superb second album A History of Silence at the start of the year and she’s finally getting the chance to play her eighties-inspired gems live at Slaktkyrkan in Stockholm on November 18th

Cassandra Jenkins long lurked in the background as a musician in touring bands for people like Eleanor Friedberger and Purple Mountains. But this year’s album An Overview on Phenomenal Nature has really established her as an artist to be reckoned with in her own right. She’s coming to Södra Teatern in Stockholm on November 26th

Always popular in this part of the world, The Jesus and Mary Chain return to Sweden for dates in Stockholm and Gothenburg at the end of November

Wry Finland-Swedish indie outfit Vasas Flora och Fauna have some of the funniest (Swedish) lyrics and catchiest tunes around. They’ll be in Stockholm and Gothenburg the first weekend of December

UK experimental rockers Black Midi are also playing Stockholm and Gothenburg on December 4th and 5th. So prepare to travel if you want to catch both them and Vasas Flora and Fauna. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Bob Hund’s annual ‘week 48’ show also takes place on December 4th. But that has been sold out for ages so no decisions to make there. It is also worth noting though that Sweden’s hardest working band has also written a musical that’s going to be performed in Helsingborg (October-November) and Gothenburg (November)

Bonus: For a post-Christmas pick-me-up try to get down to Little Simz at Slaktkyrkan on January 14th if you’re in Stockholm. The UK rapper’s new album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is one of this year’s best releases. 

Selected artists playing Sweden in 2022: Henry Rollins, Sarah Klang, Yann Tiersen, Mogwai, Pearl Charles, Wolf Alice, Lloyd Cole, Lord Huron, Future Islands, Josh Rouse + Vetiver, Tricky, Snail Mail, Porridge Radio, Aldous Harding, Shame, The Kooks, The War on Drugs, Echo and the Bunnymen, Kings of Convenience, Fontaines D.C., Alex Cameron, Lucy Dacus, The Divine Comedy, Mdou Moctar, Iggy Pop, Chubby and the Gang, Sparks, Belle & Sebastian, The National, Sharon Van Etten, Teenage Fanclub, Tindersticks, Suede, Viagra Boys, Pavement. 

For bigger arena shows, Ticketmaster covers a lot of the bases. Big-name acts with gigs in the offing include Ed Sheeran, Zara Larsson, Whitesnake and, lest we forget, ABBA

And that’s just a fraction of what’s going on. Tour schedules are busier than ever now that artists are finally getting back on the road. To keep track of what gigs are coming up I can recommend checking in with Luger, FKP Scorpio, and Live Nation. Follow your favourite venues too: sometimes they cut out the middleman and do their own booking and promotion. I also use the Bandsintown app, which comes with the added bonus of receiving messages from your favourite artists which let you pretend to be their friend. 

Enjoy the gigs, and stay safe! 

Paul O’Mahony is editorial product manager at The Local. In his spare time he plays the best new indie and alternative music as host of the Signals show on Nerve Music.