Sunday, 14 May 2017

Chiquitita tell me the truth

-Brian Mendonça

Recently we had the curious phenomenon of a crowd screaming their guts out for a tribute concert to the legendary group ABBA. The inescapable ease with which the switch was made was, like most media events, heady and scary at the same time.

The ability of the Waterloo team to mime the original ABBA act along with, of course, original saxophonist Ulf Andersson needs to be lauded.

Yet niggling questions remain. What happened to the other three members of the original band? As the crowd coasts on the brand recall of the original sound where are the legends who started it all, slinking?

A chance remark in a discussion about the Waterloo performance revealed that one of the original members has actually turned her back on the world and lives now in isolation.

Benny Anderson, Anni- Frid Lyngstad (Frida), Agnetha Faltskog and Bjorn Ulvaeus were the original four in 1974.  Their journey is as fascinating as their music. Both couples were married at the height of their fame. Bjorn and Agnetha separated  in 1979, Benny and Frida  in 1981.

The next year ABBA disbanded as if to bear out the case that when the love between the couples was no longer there, the band could not survive. In fact the Abba logo was designed to reflect that the bands singers were two committed couples, ‘by having the B’s oriented towards the A’s.’ The iconic logo was designed by Swedish artist Rune Soderquist.

Thirty-five years later ‘ABBA’ are resurrected in Goa.  Of the original four only the 77-year-old Ulf Anderson survived. Frida would have been 72 years and Agnetha 67 years of age. Audiences may not have been prepared to shell out to see a grandmother perform, but a grandfather would be passable.

Throwing light on the possibility of a reunion Agnetha’s words were full of pathos, ‘I think we have to accept that it will not happen,’ she said, ‘because we are too old and each one of us has their own life. Too many years have gone by since we stopped, and there's really no meaning in putting us together again." (Interview of May 2013)

Frida now lives with her British boyfriend Henry Smith in Zermatt, Switzerland. She lost her daughter in a car crash in 1988.  Agnetha has gone on to record in English and Swedish spawning an autobiography The Girl With the Golden Hair. Bjorn who suffered from episodes of memory loss now oversees the abba museum at

To my mind, this awareness of the terrible beauty of life is lost when an act that masquerades for ABBA is held. It glosses over the fact that the original voices have chosen not to sing again. Masses are always ready to consume the past if it is packaged properly.  

I prefer to enjoy the voices of the originals. Yes they walked into the sunset. They lived, they loved, they went their ways. So don’t give me a sugar-coated ABBA and have me believe it’s for real.
Published in Gomantak Times, Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 14 May 2017. Pix courtesy www.jellynote(dot)com

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