By Kyrre Tromm Lindvig
Today the Norwegian music scene is as vibrant as ever - and it gains more and more attention abroad. A glance at the "What's on today" column at the front page of MiCs English pages, show that there are almost 5- 6 Norwegian artists and bands on tour outside their own country - every day, at all times. Jazz pianist Bugge Wesseltoft draws crowds over 1000 on his gigs in France, veteran saxophonist Jan Garbarek is one the most important artists on the renowned ECM label and now one tries to export the hip underground scene of the Norwegian club "Blå" to different places around the globe.
However, this is by no means a new trend, as musicians and artists often establish international contacts. The growing internationalisation of the Norwegian music scene started quite early in the 60s, and mainly in the field of jazz. The now legendary Garbarek, along with drummer Jon Christensen and Arild Andersen - among many others - established contacts with American musicians who visited Norway on their European tours. During this period, Garbarek also got to know German producer Manfred Eicher, who in those days started his ECM label - a label that has released numerous recordings with Norwegian musicians throughout its 35 years of existence.
The classical milieu in Norway is also very internationally minded, both the Norwegian Opera as well as the philharmonic orchestras in the country's major cities have numerous foreign members and tour all across the globe. Especially the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Mariss Janssons, has gained international acclaim.
These facts are only an indication of the vast global network the Norwegian music scene is a part of. Now, however, even more is planned to promote Norwegian music abroad.
As mentioned in the article "Blå is coming to a place near you" (which you can access by clicking here), the Norwegian club situated by the Aker river in Oslo, will start a program of club - exchange. This means that Blå will move their whole crew, everything from bouncers to bar employees and artists to another club for a few days - and in return that club shall do the same at Blå. The plans have become a lot more concrete since the last time we spoke to Sigurd Reinton at "Blå".
- We are very optimistic these days, since we have received 350.000,- NOK (about 50.500,- dollars, 28.000,- pounds or 41.600,- euro) from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to make this project happen. Of course we need more, but this gives us a good economic base to work from, he says.
You stated in your last interview with us that the point with the club-exchange is not to establish branches of "Blå" abroad. What is it you want to achieve?
- The club exchange program will be more about establishing contacts between clubs, artists, booking agents, promoters and audiences. We do not want to establish branches of our own club and we do not want to focus only on Norwegian artists. It is as important to get the foreign clubs with their artists to us, we want exchange both ways, he states.
At this point, Blå has established contacts with clubs in Chicago, London, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Cape Town and Moscow.
- Of course, in this business, it takes some time before things are 100% clarified. Clubs come and go, they often have shaky finances, but our main point is not to exchange clubs for the clubs sake, but because of the environment around it. In this respect, it is important to stress that the money "Blå" has received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not our money as such. It shall be used for the best of the artists, Reinton says.
He emphasises the role of "Blå" as a node in a network, and that it is the network that is the important thing, both nationally and internationally.
- We will also establish a database in relation with our club-exchange program, where Norwegian artists can get contact addresses to clubs and booking persons abroad. This base will be open to all artists so that everybody can get a chance to test their luck abroad, Reinton concludes.