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Folk music in Norway falls into two main categories based in the ethnic populations from which they spring: North Germanic and Sami. Traditional Sami music is centered around a particular vocal style called joik. Originally, joik referred to only one of several Sami singing styles, but in English the word is often used to refer to all types of traditional Sami singing. Its sound is comparable to the traditional chanting of some American Indian cultures. Traditional North Germanic Norwegian vocal music includes (kvad), ballads and short, often improvised songs (stev) are among the most common types of traditional music. Work songs, hymns, tralling vocals and old printed ballad stories, skillingsviser, have also been popular. Norway shares Nordic folk dance music with its neighbouring countries of Sweden and Denmark, where the Hardanger fiddle (hardingfele), the most distinctive instrument in Norwegian folk music, is used along with other fiddles like the standard violin and Setesdals-fele. The hardingfele was part of kappleik musical contests from the late 19th century.

In the sixties Norwegian popmusic excisted around beat groups like The Beatniks, The Pussycats and the Vanguards with mastergitarist Terje Rypdal. At the end of the decade The Prudence is founded in Trondheim. Frontman is Åge Aleksandersen who writes the first good Norwegian texts. Some of his most well known songs are "Lys og Varme" (Light and Warmth), "Fire Pils og en Pizza" (Four Pilseners and a Pizza) and "Rosalita". The seventies see a mixture in tradionational folk and rock with groups like Veslefrikk (with singer Anne-Grete Preuss). Luckily for Norway they do not have their Abba. Where neighbouring country Sweden spends the eighties and nineties in trying to revel the success of their best export product Norway seeks it’s way through traditional sounds, jazz and modern pop and comes up with an airy and desolate sounding sometimes even ice-cold style.

Of course Norway does has it’s successful acts in the eighties of which A-ha and Fra Lippo Lippi are the best known. But it’s the folk rock, jazz and ambient pop that sets Norway apart. The folk rock movement is headed by Sami singer Mari Boine, who’s music can be described as a type of minimalist folk-rock with joik roots. In recent years artists like Gåte, Kaizers Orchestra and Odd Nordstoga have made folk music also accessible to younger crowds. Gåte and Kaizers Orchestra fused folk music with metal and became very popular.

There are also artist who mix jazz with folk and pop. Best known example is singer Kari Bremnes who first performs with Lars Klevstrand. After going solo (with the help of her brothers Ola and Lars) in 1987. Pioneers of Norwegian jazz include Jan Garbarek. His cool, almost ambient approach is typical of Norwegian jazz a style he also mixes with folk and electronica. He, too, has linked jazz with traditional Norwegian music, as evidenced in his recording "Rosenfole" with acclaimed Norwegian traditional-style singer, Agnes Buen Garnås. His daughter, Anja Garbarek, is one of the artists that has renovated the jazz scene, combining sweet melodies with electronic sounds and pop beats. Other contemporary Norwegian jazz stars include the group Supersilent pianist Bugge Wesseltoft (who also makes sidesteps in ambien electronic and worked together with Mari Boine), percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love, Nils Petter Molvaer. Silje Nergaard and Lene Marlin perform more traditional soft but still very coolly sung jazz. A interesting mix between folk, jazz and pop is made by singer Kari Bremnes.

The electronic ambient music scene has it’s first representative in 1985 when Geir Jensen forms Bel Canto, later followed by his project Biosphere. Other electronic performers are Hans Peter Lindstrøm, singers Bertine Zetlitz & Annie (who both makes more pop dance music), Ralph Myerz and the Jack Herren Band, Det Svenska Folket and Bjørn Torske. The latter reguarly teaming up Royksopp who break towards international recognition at the start of the millenium. Jaga Jazzist mixes the Norwegian jazz with electronic and in doing so goes full circle.

As it’s neighbouring countries Norway also has a heavy metal scene. Norway is perhaps most notable for giving birth to the controversial Norwegian black metal scene, which has produced such bands as Darkthrone, Mayhem, Dimmu Borgir, Turbonegro and Burzum. Burzum (with founder Varg Vikernes) has played a key role in the musical development of black metal, while Vikernes has also achieved a level of infamy for himself and the genre at large. Vikernes was convicted of the murder of Mayhem guitarist Øystein Aarseth (who was also known by the stage name "Euronymous") and additionally for the arson of several churches.




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