One of the year’s first major music events is the Eurosonic/Noorderslag Weekend in Holland. The showcase/seminar event draws 13 000 visitors to the concerts and attracts an extensive crowd of central European music industry and media representatives. The Norwegian participation has grown steadily over the years and now counts no less than seven vibrant acts.
One of the new year’s first highlights is the upcoming Eurosonic/Noorderslag Weekend in Holland. The combined festival and music industry convention has developed into one of the European music industry’s most central events. The roster of Norwegian acts at the Eurosonic includes Dadafon, Thomas Dybdahl, Helldorado, Gåte, Sondre Lerche, Janove Ottesen and Niko Valkepää
Kaizers Orchestra's big break at Eurosonic
Things really started rolling for Norwegian outfit Kaizers Orchestra following their stint at the Eurosonic in 2003. Says Kaizers Orchestra's manager Eivind Brydøy on the results of the collective’s gig: ‘One gig at Eurosonic gave us invitations to five-six European festivals and partly a record deal in Germany. Yes, it was probably the most important performance Kaizers did last year’. In December 2004 Kaizers Orchestra signed an extensive world-wide deal with Universal Germany following a string of very successful European festival gigs and subsequent hype.
Kaizers were well prepared in front of their 2003 gig. They had gathered lots of people for the gig and the right agents and festival representatives were there. After the show, "everyone" talked about the Norwegians singing in strange dialects and banging on oil barrels. One year later, Kaizers Orchestra 2003 appearance is touted as one of the "success stories" at the Eurosonic/Noorderslag web-site, stating: "For Kaizers Orcherstra was EuroSonic the start of all activities outside Scandinavia. It is extraordinary that a band singing in a local Norwegian dialect can be booked for festivals such as Rock Am Ring (D), Rock Im Park (D), Haldern (D), Lowlands (NL) and so on."
Strong Norwegian roster
No doubt, the Norwegian roster at EuroSonic is impressive: Dadafon, Thomas Dybdahl, Helldorado, Gåte, Sondre Lerche, Janove Ottesen and Niko Valkepää are set to perform at the various Eurosonic Noorderslag Weekend stages from 13-15 January.
As a double festival and business seminar in one weekend, the Noorderslag Weekend serves as platform for the European live music industry, management, European radio professionals and (online) media. With over 150 new European artist showcases, 1500 music industry professionals, a seminar with over 35 panels and meetings and a pan European radio broadcast, the Noorderslag Weekend is both a good way to connect to the live music industry and a great way of seeing the most promising new rock, pop and electronic bands and acts from Europe.
Last year more than 13 000 visitors flocked to the concerts while the seminars and networking opportunity attracted 1 500 professional representatives from music industry and media. 24 radio stations were present as were representatives for 35 festivals.
Gigs - not champagne
’EuroSonic is kind of an exhibit hall for festival bookers. Decisions on who to book for the next festival are made in Groningen, so it is important to be there, ‘ says Vegard Strømsodd - an agent working for Norwegian booking agency Pilot Management. ’It is quite expensive to send bands down there, but it is an investment we and the bands are willing to take. We want to present our musicians, and hopefully, they will be booked at different European venues. Groningen is a small student city north in Holland, and because of the intimate atmosphere, numerous clubs, and people from all over Europe, this is one of the best festivals I've been to. Midem is the place to be if you would like to drink Champagne and talk business. EuroSonic is where people come to see live acts,’ Strømsodd says.
The chosen few
However, the selection process is tough. Thousands of bands register every year, most of them do not get the chance to show off. But good results from your home country as well as connections with record companies in the Benelux countries are useful. Strong bands are picked from each country, for example Soundtrack of Our Lives from Sweden. Pilot manager Strømsodd agrees with his colleague from Kaizers regarding the healthy interest for Norwegian music.
"Norwegian music gains momentum, which opens doors for unknown bands."
The Norwegian Eurosonic 2005 Acts:
On their two albums ‘Visitor’ (Via Music 2002) and ‘Harbour’ (Universal/Emarcy 2004) Dadafon display mastery of a wealth of genres, incorporating elements from such diverse styles as afro-beat, jazz, electronica and their home-grown "creaky pop". Fronted by charismatic vocalist Kristin Asbjørnsen, Dadafon present a unique blend of genres and expressions that's carefully stitched together into a seamless and unified form of expression. Universally acclaimed, Dadafon have with their albums and applauded gigs firmly established themselves as a creatively turbo-charged collective constantly pushing the envelope. They have dubbed their strings/percussion/vocals/scrap-metal driven tunes "creaky pop" – thus implying that they avoid the polished perfection of the mainstream. They don't lack mainstream appeal however – Dadafon's tunes are as catchy as anything out there and hold great promise of future impact
Listen to and download Dadafon releases here
Thomas Dybdahl made a splash debut with his first album "That Great October Sound" (CCAP 2002). Dybdahl seemed to emerge from nowhere - suddenly he was just there. The album's captivating opening track From Grace, with its beautiful Jeff Buckleyesque falsetto vocal line, immediately secured Thomas Dybdahl a place in the spotlight. Some very positive live and album reviews further solidified Dybdahl's position as one of the strongest contenders in the Newcomer of the Year awards. His second album "Stray Dogs" (CCAP 2003) picked up where its predecessor left. This is soul in its most modern idiom – tunes that are destined to last for a lifetime. Thomas Dybdah's third album, "One day you'll dance for me, New York City" was released to rave reviews in the domestic press in October 2004.
Listen to and download Thomas Dybdahl’s releases here
Gåte could be labelled an unlikely success: they fuse traditional Norwegian folk-music elements with gothic influences, programming, walls of guitars and lyrics sung in their mother's tongue. Gåte managed to score several radio hits with tunes that feature the untraditional combination of traditional fiddle work, vocals based on the ancient stev-style, frantic effect-laden guitar work and a hard-hitting rhythm section. The band's extrovert and energetically charged live-performances added to the growing hype that culminated in the warm reception of the "Jygri" album and the subsequent strong sales. Revitalising traditional folk-music is a monumental task that Gåte have embarked on with youthful and fearless energy – completing a lasting and refreshing contribution to the renewal of traditional Norwegian music.
"Jygri" has since its release reached platinum sales in Norway. The band has also performed successfully at one of Roskilde Festival's main stages.
Gåte's second album "Iselilja" is was released on the domestic market in October last year to universal acclaim.
If Quentin Tarantino had lived in Norway he would have asked, no, commanded Helldorado to provide the soundtracks for his films. If the Norwegian fjords had been near the Arizona desert, Helldorado would have been world-famous by now. If the Vikings had stayed in America, Americana would have been the same as Norwegiana and Norwegian would have been the official language there. Helldorado do everything they can to correct the course of history with their sunburnt fjord desert rock full of indie elements and surftwangs. Helldorado evokes the sensation of burning sun on your neck, crunched sand between your teeth, a salty taste on your lips, a shaky finger on the trigger of a Colt 45, circling vultures silhouetted against a blue-white sky, a double whiskey on an empty stomach, the smell of bacon, beans, gunpowder, leather, sweat. Musical referances: The Gun Club, Dick Dale, Thin White Rope, Whiskytown, Nick Cave
Listen to and download Hellldorado releases here.
Sondre Lerche is the Kundun of Norwegian pop music; the chosen one. And not just by the industry the media and the people, but prior to that it seems: he is unusual, to say the least. His indisputable talent is rare in the way of its sluggishness; it's as if it was already coupled with decades of experience and age-refinement from the start. And this observation somehow accords with the impression of the person: He has the air of the sage about him; the enigmatic fusion of serenity and bubbling energy combined with a strange distance that makes you think that he's from somewhere else; he knows something or is in touch with something we don't know of. His songs convey this modest mystery too, there's a residue to them regarding recognizability and category. Most are singer–songwriter tunes; seemingly transparent, and a majority of them on the side of the "good and the beautiful", but SL's music is always also in some sort of intimacy with something more oblique; something darker and perhaps not present except as substratum. His songs are never just beautiful; there is resistance and a counterforce present; a force that elevates the result to something unexpected from such a young artist.
Despite his still young age, Lerche has managed to put out two acclaimed albums ‘Faces Down’ and ‘Two Way Monologue’ – both on Virgin. He has steadily built up a strong following in the US through extensive touring and is now ready to return to the European stage with his appearance at Eurosonic.
The name of Janove Ottesen might not ring a bell with those not familiar with what’s happening on the domestic Norwegian music scene. Mention Kaizers Orchestra and a bell might start to ring – Janove is the hailed front-man of the oil-barrel pounding collective that shook the Eurosonic audience some two years ago. Ottesen has found time to write a set of more melancholic, melodic and captivating melodies, recording them and releasing them on his sophomore solo outing released last year on EMI. Expect a more toned down and melancholic yet intensely melodic appearance from the otherwise very energetic and extrovert vocalist.
Listen to and download Kaizers Orchestra releases here
Although Valkeapää is solidly anchored in the Sami tradition, his musical outings owe more to contemporary and mature electronica-infused pop than traditional Sami chanting does. His albums and captivating live appearances manifest Valkeapää as one of Sami music's foremost performers and one of the most integral voices to emerge on this scene in recent years. With well-developed compositional skills, his feet are equally planted in an Anglo/American singer/songwriter tradition as they are in a traditional Sami lyrical form of expression. Valkeapää's albums draw a portrait of a young performer and composer that has found his linguistic as well as musical platform.
Last autumn saw Valkeapää winning both the jury and audience awards at the prestigious Liet International in Holland.
Valkeapää has released two acclaimed albums: a self-titled debut and last year’s ‘Sierra’ (Duippidit/Musikkoperatørene).
The complete Noorderslag Weekend line-up can be found here.