As an old movie fan, I’ve noticed how often the plot or subplot has to do with vaudeville either being dead or dying. Think of Gypsy, The Sunshine Boys, Limelight, Babes in Arms, Ziegfeld Girl and others. I never once thought I would see it revived until I discovered the multi-talented, Gunhild Carling. I first saw her as an unnamed blonde prancing around a stage, reminding me a little of Cab Calloway, but also a bit like a guest who may have stayed too late at a party. But when she grabbed her bagpipes and started playing and swinging with the band, I was transfixed.
When that same unnamed blonde showed up again in my Facebook feed singing, scatting, playing the trombone and tap dancing in Central Park, I decided to find out about her.
Gunhild Carling was born into a family of musicians in 1975 in Gothenburg, Sweden. At age 7, she started touring and performing with them. She writes music, sings, tap dances, plays the harmonica, trombone, trumpet, harp, bagpipes, odd shepherd’s pipes, flute, banjo, piano and heaven knows what else. And like someone performing in vaudeville, she can play a bass fiddle and trumpet at the same time and sometimes plays three trumpets at once. From time to time her family members add tightrope walking and juggling.
Wearing flapper costumes from the 1920s or gold lame from the 1950’s, she’s brought her energetic style of jazz to fans all over the world from the Scandinavian countries to London, Dresden, Barcelona, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Malaysia, South Korea, New Orleans, to Central Park and Birdland in New York.
Here’s Gunhild with the acclaimed Postmodern Jukebox.
I love her limitless energy and joy. She must have amazing lungs to be able to sing, dance and do whatever else all at the same time. She can also take it down a notch with a romantic ballad like this one she composed.
At a time when so much music is overproduced with too slick digital dubbing and correction, she’s authentic. And unrestrained in pouring out her energy and enthusiasm. Most of all, she looks like she’s having fun, so we have fun watching her.
These last two videos are some of my favorites. The first seems unrehearsed in a cafe in Kuala Lumpur. In the second, she and a contingent of young fans are dancing the shim sham in a Malaysian parking lot. Think of it. If this doesn’t make you smile, nothing will.