January 31, 2019
photo by @uglydugly
Ronja is a Danish songstress whose mysterious sound matches her enigmatic online presence. A search for her name is likely to only return results on a Swedish children’s book – after which she was coincidentally named. So what better way to get to know Ronja than in person and through her music?
Low-Fi got a first taste of Ronja in December, when she opened for Fjer at Villa Kultur. Barefoot under the playful lights and accompanied only by a backtrack, she effortlessly got everyone’s attention. The cinematic quality of her songs and performance evoked (a more vocally gifted) Lana Del Rey. Armed with a voice that switches effortlessly between impossibly low and high notes and with an arresting presence, she left everyone in the room longing for more.
I remember turning to a fellow concert-goer with a dumbstruck "what just happened?!" the moment the music stopped. I was met by a huge smile from no other than Low-Fi’s co-founder and a promise to see Ronja again in a home concert.
But where was this gem hiding and why do we only hear about her now? Ronja’s journey into music making started early on, at the age of 6 or 7, when she one day simply declared that she wanted to sing. Ronja received lessons in classical singing and music theory over the course of the following years. But, slowly, the joy of singing started to be replaced by a fear of "doing it wrong", which even led the young musician to decide to give up making music for good.
“We learn so many things as young kids that we never even stop to question. I found that that was what made my music feel so heavy. Believing thoughts like "life is hard" when the opposite might also be just as true.”
We can thank a mixture of a lightly supervised job, late nights and comradery among colleagues for the fact that Ronja ended up letting her hair down again and eventually returning to music – this time free of any judgement and worries. She describes the experience as the best artistic practice she has ever done.
photo by @katharinasaaek
In November 2018, Ronja released her first EP, titled Rising of the Monarch. The 5 songs take the listener on a journey of shedding both outside and self-constructed expectations, hitting rock bottom and finally metamorphosing into a monarch. We learn that the road to queendom is paved with substance abuse, a need for approval, addictions of all types, love of crying and navigating the thin line between celebrating life and losing control.
“Black Sugar” is the first and most instrumentally packed song of the EP and haunts the listener with the echoing chorus “Kids ain’t nothing without their parents”. Expect to shudder at lines like “My man’s in love with a teenage girl”.
“Party” comes in strong with percussion, a chillingly high-pitched synthesizer and commands to “Grow up/ Get a job/ Go out and show them all what you got”. Add a layer of fear of missing out and spin into a dream-like downward spiral with “I’m not gonna be that one/ you know/ who missed out on the fun”.
The party continues into “Friday Night”, but the high is fading and the feeling of being stuck prevails. The thrill of the night plays its last card through visions of “angels in the air and flowers in my hair”, which are soon replaced by a sense of paranoia in “I know you don’t want me to feel so good” and the self-directed “Everybody’s talking about you”.
“12 steps” is the penultimate song on the EP. It features only Ronja’s voice and a piano and it’s possibly my favorite song of hers. “12 steps” is the sobering up song, the admission and asking for help song. For a moment, it brings us above ground level, where there is clean air, spring flowers and countryside, only to plunge into a darker mood with our heroine’s celebration of life being on the brink of spinning out of control again and into a “fool’s fucking run-through”. Temptation is always a step away and healing comes one day at a time: “God help me through the day/ I gotta make it through the day”.
More spoken word than song, the EP ends on “Rising of the Monarch", leaving us with the powerful “A queen is not conquered by fear, nor does she ignore that it’s there”. After all is said and done, embracing your power takes vulnerability.
I play living room concerts every day for myself and my plants. They're awesome (the concerts). I visualize my shows a lot like that.
It's still a bit hard for me to open that intimate space up for other people, so I have to say that the Low-Fi concert is going to be very special and maybe a bit trippy. In a way, the audience is invited into my mind. It's a personal sphere and I'm very excited to see what will happen. My plants (I'll bring them) are just as excited to have a fellow audience.
An absolutely amazing experience that will make you question which world you’re in. Like a David Lynch film. Only not so goddam dark. Still kind of dark, though.
Besides my EP Rising of the Monarch I'll be playing an acoustic version of Black Sugar + one of my unreleased songs called Your Wildest Fantasy, both of which I just LOVE to perform!