Journalist James Delingpole was invited to Oslo to meet the creators of Madrugada, a Norwegian band whose album Grit is dubbed one of the best albums of the year by British press. He muses on Norway's anglophile tendencies.
29/03/2004 :: "How is it that a semi-icebound country with a tiny population geared to fishing, reindeer-herding and cross-country skiing manages to produce so much damned fine pop music?" asks James Delingpole in The Times of 21 February.
"I'm not talking A-Ha here. That was many years ago, in Norway's relatively rubbish phase. I mean bands like Röyksopp, Kings of Convenience and, of course, Madrugada."
Delingpole points out that Scandinavia's ability to speak good English is one reason why Norwegian, Swedish and Danish bands merge so well with the American and British music scenes. Another is their anglophone pop music tradition.
"Though raised in a remote northern valley with a population of just 150 [Madrugada's guitarist Robert Buraas] grew up steeped in Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, the Stones and the early bluesmen. Chatting to their dapper bassist Frode, I might have been hanging with a knowledgeable English indie kid (he worships REM, Radiohead, DJ Shadow)."
Asked why Norwegians are so drawn to anglophile culture Madrugada's label boss, Per Eirik Johansen of Virgin/EMI Norway, answered that it has to do with strategic alliances.
"Temperamentally, he believes, the Scandinavians are closer than they'd care to admit to the Germans. But instead, they have come to see themselves as part British (because of all the wonderful things we did for them in the war) and part American (because Norway needed all the help it could get in the Cold War). Which meant that they "got" rock'n'roll in a way that other parts of the Continent never quite did."
Delingpole points out that as a result, "Norwegian musicians are able to cherrypick the best of British and American musical traditions, while never feeling burdened by either."
The album ''Grit'' is released in the UK on 1st March. It is a UK release only with a specially tailored track list, and will not be available in other countries.