Theater of Cruelty

White lies, dark songs

Haddy N'jie, 26, wanted to be a writer, and was just annoyed at everyone who thought she was singing because she's black. Then she got a guitar in 2000.


Join us back to 1996. On the first morning train from Oslo to Kolbotn. 16-year-old Haddy Jatou N'jie has once again partyed at the in-place Kristiania, and is on his way home from nachspiel. Once again, she has had to deny that she sings, something many people automatically take for granted when they meet a young and pretty black girl at a trendy nightclub. Haddy writes, she does not sing. Music is something she listens to, and now the song "Lilac Wine" is playing on the discman. Jeff Buckley sings:

I lost myself on a cool damp night

Gave myself in that misty light

Was mesmerized by a strange delight

Under a lilac tree

Too young for the blues

Ten years later, Haddy N'jie has also discovered Nina Simone and her version of "Lilac Wine". Not only that, she has even started playing guitar, writing songs and singing. The Kristiania guests who were convinced that she sang got it right in the end, and now Njie sings herself lilac wine in the song "Melt in the Mouth Madness". On the debut album White Lies she sings as a mix of Jeff Buckley, Ane Brun and Nina Simone. But she still doesn't quite know what lilac wine is for anything.

- No, I'm really not sure. I'm primarily concerned with the mood of the song, but is not “lilac” a color? I think it's indigo, she laughs.

The dictionary tells us that "lilac" means lilac or purple, but N'jie is not really that concerned with colors. In her teens, she was tired of everyone who thought she was singing because she was black, and after she finally started singing five years ago, she is thoroughly tired of everyone automatically thinking she is doing hip hop or r & b. Because she's black.

- I am very fond of hip hop, and have a close relationship with artists such as 2Pac, Nas, Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill. But I also love Leonard Cohen, Tricky, Tracy Chapman and the National Theater. They are all artists with a strong urge to communicate. 2Pac raps about life, death and anxiety, while the National Theater is very political, with members almost fighting with each other for attention. It's the best thing to listen to when I drink.

"I should sing the blues, but I'm far too young and dumb for that," N'jie sings in "Bats." Although she sometimes feels too young and stupid, there is little doubt that much of White Lies are pure nails blues.

- Blues should be sung with weight, and it is often I feel that my backpack – or my experiences – is not heavy enough. On the other hand; Can't the grief and experience of a pubertal teenager feel as heavy as an old man? I had few friends my own age when I was a teenager, and bless every year I get older. My record can probably be perceived as sad by many, but seen in the light of my own life, I do not feel that way. It's more intense, very Haddy.

In front of the queue

Let's go back ten years again. There is much talk about the problems Norwegians with dark complexion face, but rarely about the benefits. For they exist. At night spots like Kristiania and Headon, it was a clear advantage to be colored in the mid-1990s. At least if you were young, pretty and well dressed.

Where the undersigned journalist was not cool enough to get past both the queue and the doorman, N'jie was received with open arms – even though she was not old enough. Black music glowed the hottest on the trend barometer, and thus it was also cool to be black.

- I see the same thing with my little sisters of nine and eleven years. They have grown up with Gambian music, but now only hip hop and r & b apply. MTV has actually helped to create a pride in being black, but at the same time it is a pity that so many blacks want to look whiter. It's not just about Michael Jackson, but about a whole forest of artists who use skin whitening and blonde wigs.

Growing up, N'jie felt she constantly had to answer a series of questions about her background. Who are you? Where are you from? Now she says she is Gambian, simply to avoid the questions she knows are coming.

- Kolbotn has always been very white, and even though I have never been to Gambia, I was constantly reminded that my roots. I got the impression that I did not really belong in Norway, but could stay since I was kind and sweet. The Norwegian school system gave me no pride in being African, since I was only fed with pictures of suffering Africans in school books, on TV and in newspapers. Maybe that's why I was surprised that there were so many up-and-coming black people in Norway when I became active in the organization African Youth. Here were doctors, teachers and economists, and not just gangsters and cannabis sellers

So no to the Day Review

N'jie is active on several fronts: She has written several short stories and is the youngest member of the Norwegian-African theater group Queendom, while she earns a living as a freelance journalist in the women's magazine KK. To highlight Nina Simone again, there is no doubt that being "young, gifted and black" in Norway also has its advantages.

- There are many benefits. I get noticed, and can easily escape if I have something to say. And in my work as a journalist, there is a clear advantage, as I often have a different approach and experience background than ethnic Norwegian journalists.

"Haddy N´jie joined the Day Review to retain artistic freedom," the press release states, for it was impossible to combine a career as a news journalist with a role as a musician and satirist.

- I could not make fun of Erna Solberg on one stage in one moment to interview her in the next.

In Dagbladet recently it was said that N'jie declined an offer as an anchor woman in Dagsrevyen, but she does not want to elaborate on this. But she agrees that the job market for journalists today can at times be reminiscent of the queues in front of in-places like Headon and Kristiania in the 1990s. It's not exactly a disadvantage to be black here either.

- It is high time that journalists with multicultural backgrounds are quoted in the Norwegian media. Firstly, white Norwegian workers have so far been quoted by virtue of not having a minority background. A little balance does not hurt anyone. Secondly, many Norwegian journalists have surprisingly poor networks in minority communities. Thirdly, we are now seeing a flourishing of very good people with an immigrant background. I constantly have to answer the question of whether I got a journalist job on the minority quota, when I actually have a good exam from the journalism college. That said, it is very important that the individual journalist understands that this recruitment must take place on their own terms, because it can easily be the case that the media is only looking for a face that can play a predetermined role.

PS! Haddy N'jie plays at the rock club Mono in Oslo on October 4. November 3 is the premiere on Integrated as fuck, the new show for Queendom, at the Factory in Oslo.

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