At last weekend’s memorial concert, the rather difficult task of following the unscheduled appearance of Bruce Springsteen was handed to Lillebjørn Nilsen.
There was no better person for it.
An Oslo Folk Hero
Not widely known outside Scandinavia, Lillebjørn released his first album way back in 1971. His music is a shining example of what makes folk music great – simple and straightforward songs with lyrics that really mean something to people.
To unite the city together after an emotional night, he played his beautifully gentle lullaby, God Natt Oslo (Good Night Oslo), an ode to after-hours goings on in the city. The simple addition of the Norwegian word kjære (dear/darling), turns it into a truly touching song, especially in these circumstances.
Good night dear Oslo, sleep well tonight.
It was a real tear-jearker, even watching on the box.
He followed up with Barn av Regnbuen (Children of the Rainbow), the reworking of the Pete Seeger song My Rainbow Race. It’s the song which Breivik singled out as being an example of Marxist influence on Norwegian culture, as it promotes multiculturalism, with children of all backgrounds playing together in harmony. Back in April at the height of the Breivik trial, an estimated 40,000 citizens of Oslo gathered on Youngstorget to sing the song, in the rain, just a few yards from the location of the bomb.
It is now the undisputed anthem of modern Norway.
Learning Norwegian with Lillebjørn Nilsen
On a completely different note, because Lillebjørn’s songs are simple and sung clearly, they are great for using as a language learning aid. This works in two ways, picking up sentence structure but also hearing the pronunciation of words, especially when used mid-sentence.
Listen to the opening verse and follow along below, paying particular attention to the words I’ve highlighted. It’ll tell you more about Norwegian pronunciation than any text book.
Solen har forlengst gått ned bak Vestkanten et sted.
Og langs fjorden seiler natten sakte inn.
Den legger til ved havna og stryker gatelangs
forkledd som en kjølig sønnavind.
In fact, there’s a future blog post on this coming up!