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An affinity with outdoor pursuits has helped festivals become Norway's most popular live entertainment destination. Adam Woods reports on a business enjoying rude health
By IQ on 26 Oct 2017
If money doesn’t make us happy, then how do we explain Norway, which is both the world’s happiest country and, thanks to its oil wealth, Europe’s second richest?
Maybe money isn’t such a curse after all. Or maybe Norway’s diverting live scene keeps those rich kid blues at bay. The smallest Scandinavian nation by population, with the fiddliest coastline, it houses a disproportionately deluxe live market, with all the international shows and domestic touring talent a nation of 5.2m people could reasonably expect, and a festival scene that is thoroughly embedded in its culture.
“Festivals have taken over Norwegian social life now,” says Torbjørn Heitmann Valum, CEO of Norske Konsertarrangører, the country’s live business trade body. “That’s all people do in the summer: they go to a festival, meet up with friends and see bands.” Events such as Norwegian Wood, Øya, Findings, Picnic in the Park and OverOslo, which all take place in the capital, are among the prominent evidence of this, but in the summer, Norway is swarming with festivals from top to bottom – not just national ones, but regional and local ones, too, in virtually every town.
“That’s all people do in the summer: they go to a festival, meet up with friends and see bands”
Likewise, Oslo is the prime destination for most international artists, but second and third cities Bergen and Trondheim have their moments too, and Norwegian music is strong and varied enough that the country’s live business could, if pushed, run on little else. Once famous solely for A-ha, Norway’s talent machine these days produces a far broader range of artists than before.
“Yes, it’s a really good time,” says Atomic Soul’s Peer Osmundsvaag. “I remember growing up thinking Norway was probably the most rubbish country in the world, with only A-ha…”
These days, artists are breaking out of Norway all over the place. Notable names include hit-making DJ Kygo, pop twins Marcus & Martinus and X Factor offshoot Astrid S; diverse singer-songwriters such as Susanne Sundfør, Maria Mena, Anna of the North and Aurora; and indie-rockers Kakkmaddafakka – part of the so-called New Bergen Wave, which follows the original wave in the 1990s that produced Röyksopp, Kings of Convenience and Annie. Norwegian artists even occasionally manage to get noticed in Sweden, which would once have been unheard of.
Read the rest of this feature in the digital edition of IQ 73:
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