Norway. A country of Fjords and Vikings, of salmon, trolls and fairy tales. A country of oil seepages, high prices and cross-country skiing. A place where traditionally German tourists traveled the countryside with their enormous caravans.
Nowadays those icons seem to be replaced by foreign music producers, bands and artists seeking inspiration and ideas.
Norway is the country with the most varied music scene in the whole of Europe, ranging from Dub Step and Folk to Jazz. In former days the nation has only been known for its black metal bands. Scary, long-haired men shrieking their vocals to the sound of high-pitched guitar sounds. No one ever associated genres like Funk, Soul or Reggae with Scandinavia.
However in the last couple of years musicians in Norway have tried to prove that black is white. Multi instrumentalists like Jarle Bernhoft or newcomer bands like Megaphronic Thrift give Norway’s music scene a new image. Countless festivals every summer, new emerging bands every year and vinyl record shops at every corner - Norwegians all seem to be avid music lovers.
Bergen has traditionally been the epicenter of Norwegian music. Over the last few decades it was the place to be. Artists were mixing up different music genres, and made that little town (well, for Norwegian standards it’s pretty huge) a true hotspot.
Yet, recently, things seem to have moved away from the west coast and toward the eastern region around Oslo. A capital with hidden treasures and beauty, yet slightly unpopular among many Norwegians. Thus, it is nice to see that some of the art elite is now focusing on Oslo as well.
Not as small and isolated as Bergen, Oslo had been struggling to establish its own significant music community. People seem to be shattered and isolated in their specific area of the city, and unable to find a common place to get together and make music.
“That has changed a lot,“ says Øystein Olsen Eggen from the band The Slanting Brackets. “I certainly have the feeling that Oslo now takes the lead in Norway’s music scene. “
Uncommon for the very-expensive Scandinavian countries, most concerts in Oslo are free and attract huge crowds, even on normal weekdays. “Groups like us might have had a hard time pushing our success in places like Trondheim, where the city is ruled by an tight circle of music students. Here in Oslo it is very democratic and open to beginners as well,“ Øystein says, sitting on a couch while sipping on the Norwegian beer Frydenlund. It is his birthday, he is turning twenty-two.
His group started off as friends, knowing each other for years, just doing some jam sessions together.
In the last year, they recorded a few tracks and played at some of the numerous music venues now emerging in Oslo. “It is hard to play at the really good places, you actually already have to be a professional to get a gig there. But there so many new places opening all the time!” In the last five years, the number of music venues in Oslo’s city center has tripled, and famous institutions like the new opera house attract musicians from all over the world. Øystein nodds: “There is real change and opportunity in this city for bands like us. “