A brief introduction to Norwegian popular music

Sigur Rós- Image Credit: Sigur Rós
Sigur Rós- Image Credit: Sigur Rós

Norwegian music has had a few hits, such as Take on me by A-ha,  Barbie Girl by Aqua,  Beggin by  Madcon and What Does The Fox Say by Ylvis. Then again, most people don’t even know that these songs were made by Norwegian artists and entertainers. Today though, Scandinavian artists have started to become quite popular on a global scale and the Norwegian contributors are artists like: Kygo, Matoma, Alan Walker, Sigrid and Astrid S.

Kygo- Image Credit: Marco Verch
Kygo- Image Credit: Marco Verch

The Circular had a chat with Kai Arne Hansen, Ph.D. Research and Teaching Fellow at the Department of Musicology at the University of Oslo, to understand the popularity of Scandinavian artists. Hansen explains that, “It’s important to remember that the international success of Scandinavian artists is nothing new. In the ’70s and ’80s you had  AbbaRoxetteAha, and during the past decade RöyksoppRobynLykke LiMiike SnowNico & Vinz and many more” It has varied over the years and he told us that the appearance of a renewed interest in Scandinavian music can be seen as an effect of globalisation, but Hansen adds that it can, “Also be in relation to the success of Nordic movies and TV series in recent years, which are often grouped together under the banner of “Nordic noir”.

Kai Arne Hansen- Image Credit UIO
Kai Arne Hansen- Image Credit UIO

Hansen adds that, “Generally, Scandinavian popular music draws heavily on Anglo popular music idioms: there’s nothing inherently “Scandinavian” about it, but this doesn’t stop audiences from interpreting the music as symbolic of the region from which it originates (and, in turn, forming impressions of the region based on their perceptions of the music)”.

Sigur Rós- Image Credit: Sigur Rós
Sigur Rós- Image Credit: Sigur Rós

When asked whether Norwegian artists should sing in English to gain International success, Hansen explains that, “There are plenty of precedents that demonstrate that the language barrier is far from insurmountable. Examples across music genres include Psy’s “Gangnam Style” sung in Korean, Sigur Rós whose songs are either in Icelandic or Hopelandic (an invented language, basically gibberish), and German metal band Rammstein. Just last week there were two non-English songs in the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 chart: “Despacito” (Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee feat. Justin Bieber) and 
“Mi Gente” (J Balvin and Willy William feat. Beyoncé)“.

The Circular asked Hansen which song he would recommend from Norwegian popular music, that is sung in Norwegian, “I think one of the most interesting recent songs from a Norwegian artist is Daniel Kvammen’s “Som om himmelen revna” featuring Lars Vaular. The interaction between Kvammen’s restrained vocals, the troubled lyrics, and the raw rap lines of Lars Vaular are captivating, and made all the more compelling by the song’s video which depicts the unpredictable turmoil of negotiating ones own identity through youthhood”.

Daniel Kvammen is a pop/rock singer, guitar player and song-writer from Geilo. His debut album, “Fremad i alle retninga“, came out i 2015 and his career has grown substantially since then.

-Daniel Kvammen, featuring Lars Vaular: Som om himmelen revna

Video credit: Daniel Kvammen 

Here are a few examples of popular Norwegian songs that are sung in Norwegian, from the last couple of years:

Rap in Norwegian is one of the most popular genres in the country and amongst the top Norwegian Rap artists, you will find the duo Karpe Diem. Magdi Omar Ytreide Abdelmaguid and Chirag Rashmikant Patel from Oslo, rap about social issues in Norway. In April 2017, they played three sold out conserts at Olso Spektrum.

-Karpe Diem: Hvite menn som pusher 50

Video credit: Karpe Diem Offisiell 

Two of their songs where also made even more famous by other artists, as Amanda Delara (a singer, writer and record producer) covered their song Gunerius. Followed by the biggest radio station for modern music in the country, NRK P3, who made a remix of Attitudeproblem with several Norwegian/Swedish singers, rappers and entertainers. The people featured on the remix are Christine Dancke, Bendik, Stella Mwangi, Julie Bergan, Silvana Imam and Izabell.

-Amanda Delara: Gunerius cover

Video credit: NRK P3

-P3 remix: Attitudeproblem

Video credit: NRK P3

Sondre Justad is a singer and song writer from the Lofoten area, more specifically Borg and Henningsvær. He became popular i 2015 with his debut song “Nu har du mæ” (which is on the video below, from a surprise consert) and he is still popular today.

-Sondre Justad: Nu har du mæ

Video credit: Sondre Justad

Cezinando, or Kristoffer Cezinando Karlsen, is a singer and song writer from Oslo. I 2016 he won Radio P3’s “Urørt” competition (a competition to discover new artists) with his song “€PA“. He has had a rapid rise to fame since then. His music has also been featured several times in the hit tv-series “Skam“.

-Cezinando: Håper du har plass

Video credit: Cezinando

Bendik Kajander, known as Kajander, is a singer and songwriter who also comes from Lofoten. His debut singel “E du den du vil vær” got picked-up by the radio station NRK P3 in 2016, and his second (Når e du klar?) and third ( E du som du va?) singles have had the same impact.

-Kajander: Når e du klar?

Video credit: Kajandervevo

Hjerteslag, which means heartbeat, is a pop/punk band from Loddefjord, Bergen. Robert Eidevik plays gitar and sings, Nikolas Jon Aarland plays gitar, Ole Andre Hjelmås plays bass,  Torjus Raknes plays guitar and Petter Sætre plays the drums.

-Hjerteslag: Sang til Sonja

Video credit: Hjerteslag 

Kaizers Orchestra were an alternative rock band from Rogaland. They were active from 2000-2013, and in 2013 they took an indefinite break. In this time the band released 8 studio albums, and the song below, was released in 2011 and it’s one of their most popular pieces of work..

-Kaizers Orchestra: Tusen dråper regn

Video credit: VetRa16

Gabrielle was an X Factor contestant back in 2009, where she managed 6th place, and she eventually signed with Universal in 2011. Her musical background lies in gospel, soul and R&B. Her debut song in 2011, “Ring Meg“, became extremely popular and launched her career.

-Gabrielle: Fem fine frøkner

Video credit: GabrielleOnVevo


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