En engelskmann i Norge
Nicholas Sillitoe fra Illumination er en engelsk artist som har valgt Norge som utgangspunkt for sin internasjonale karriere. I dette store og briljante innlegget til Ballade, som vi velger å beholde i engelsk språkdrakt, ser han på norsk musikkbransje og Spellemannprisen 2002 med svært forundrede briller. Hvorfor er ikke Norge mer stolte av de genrene som faktisk retter opp inntrykket av år med «null points» og mislykkede satsinger, spør han, og sneier ellers innom både Röyksopp, Metropol TV og Dugnad-festivalen i Bergen.
Av Nicholas Sillitoe, Illumination/Chilluminati
I don´t often react or answer to issues brought up in your fine informative site, or indeed to issues within the «norsk bransje»…as a polite, stiff upper lip ex-pat more usually inclined to an ironical smile when little «bransje»-storms are brewing in the somewhat polluted goldfish bowl of «Norway now»…
Anyway.There I was «kosing» (love that strange norsk phenomenon, there really isn´t an english word for it) on a friday night, settling down with my wife, Anne Marie – indeed a proud Spellemannspris winner for Årets Pop with Velvet Belly (Although, I never dare ask her why the little statue is still lying at the bottom of an aquarium in her band´s studio?)
We were both mildly irritated and saddened to see Metropol TV suddenly off the airwaves, flicking through the channels in a post-pizza and wine comatose, and for a split second I thought «Mad Tv» was now on Nrk tv…my favourite «Arbeiderpartiets rikskringkasting», as I´ve been told it´s also known as…
We continued watching.
First, Røyksopp – dear colleagues in Norwegian house/electronica, and much part of the growing international praise to Norwegian «underground» that has taken up most of my love and energy these last years…ah good, I thought…now the viewers, the sceptics, the couch potatoes are all finally getting it, now our treasured little dance scene can get some of the attention, understanding and recognition it deserves for it´s integrity, uncompromising standards and high level musicianship…
But oops, Mad TV, «look what I can do»…they are miming…or has Svein Berge just conjured up some miracle of telle-kinetics, and metamorphosed in to the Kings of Convenience vocalist in «Poor Leno»?…indeed, here Poor is the operative word.
Following on from the hip-tastic Røyksopp, a band I usually dig and will continue to support immensly, hoping no-one would notice the «Wizard of Oz» trickery, we were thinking «yipee», with all this «Norway Now» buzz on esoteric, alternative norwegian music making waves in every international genre and scene, it would be nice to see the jazz dudes, the metal headz, the «open» classers etc all getting their little pat on the back, back in the little country that so often chooses not to mention them, that little moment when all mums and dads of alternative musicians can proudly, and finally say to their neighbours…»you see».
And then, another fab bit of Mad Tv, or was it Benny Hill, or was it indeed Jackass?
No, it was the Nrk editors amphetamine rush through all the «file under difficult» genres, nominees and prizes.
No glimpse of Open Class nominee Bugge Wesseltoft – heralded as an international nu-jazz pioneer and electronica-surfer magnifique, his music celebrated front page news everywhere else than Norway, and only a few weeks ago there was the man himself, Bugge sitting on a panel with me at a press
conferance in Cannes for «Norway now», telling the international media about how proud he was to be Norwegian. Magnifique.
A split second glimpse at Anja Gabarek´s eventual winning words for the Open Class prize, another superb artist crossing borders, a masterpiece collaboration with such mighty music icons as Mark Hollis (Talk Talk), Robert Wyatt etc. Oh, like that´s not interesting to mention, oooh, taboo.
Jazz, Contemporary Music…hang on, I didn´t even get the time to hear who won the awards, let alone who were the nominees. Oh, no problemo – Norwegian Jazz surely can´t be that interesting for the Grandiosa munching viewers, or the restless suits in the audience?…even though it´s the thing we (you) all should be proud of. A rare national genre full of international talent that time and time again, just like that other dare-we-say-it´s-name «samtidsmusikk», gets the same reaction as a silent fart in a church service.
A swift «let´s sweep it under the carpet» glimpse at Dimmu Borgir, winners of the oh-so provocative Metal Prize, representatives of a truly indigenous, inventive and sucessful norwegian scene. How many records from this scene, and artists like these sell abroad?…certainly a figure in another galaxy
than the majority of combined talents who then turned up in the Nrk Prize schedule all-star fest…
Yes, the much debated «best norwegian song» débâcle…which Morten Abel, bless him, has already so succintly commented on.
It´s as if «Norway now» never happened, the house, jazz, electronica, metal, alternative pop, new confident pop, you name it…all the hard work Norwegian music has made reinventing itself after years of «Null Points» and cynical jibes from the rest of the world.
So, instead of focusing on what is truly vibrant in Norway now, and in terms of how the rest of the world views this up and coming nation of new, exotic and edgy music – we were subjected to a bitter reminder of the past, the old faces still there haunting and corrupting the norwegian music business in their major label, minor priority timewarp.
Ok, fair enough, I do have to admit some of these «folkelig» golden oldies and evergreens do have a cultural relevance and significance, given that the awards are 30 years old, but the overfocusing and priority on primetime viewing was pure «Mad Tv». 6 minutes of uncomfortable sequenced medleys, performers coming across like a loud gang of tipsy norwegian tourists in a karoake bar in Costa geriatrica, the whole pantomime coming across with incredibly bad timing.
The time is indeed now for unequivocally celebrating what makes Norway now, and not Norway then.
The time is indeed now for presenting fresh faces, ideas, idealists and ideals…especially when daily papers, and ballade editorial etc, continually read of the old school stalwarts of the bransje still using and abusing their positions, clinging on to the nearly years, the past – and worse still, trying to reinvent themselves on the back of the new generation of alternative, independent music in Norway that does truly make waves, particularly abroad.
So, what is the prize for Norwegian alternative music, artists and genres that you read and hear about everywhere else in the world? 60 seconds of major, state funded tv disinformation and insult.
Pity about Metropol Tv going down, but hey, there´s always another episode of Mad coming soon on repeat on another channel soon, Spellemann 2003?
So, we settled down to Frederic Skalvan, Først og Sist, and that happy, quirky little jingle from yours truly…meanwhile, my good partner in crime, with the well-known cheeky smile, Per Martinsen was on his way to the «Dugnad» event in Bergen, organised by the Tellé brigade. An oasis of new talent, and absolutely Norway now. Pity I couldn´t make it, I was supposed to be Djíng there with Per, I was otherwise occupied that weekend.
He phoned me yesterday, and I asked «so, maan – how was it?»
He answered, in a kind of familiar dreamy voice…»it wasn´t like Norway».