Theater of Cruelty

Three Norwegian folk musicians

The trio Naheddi from Iraq and Burkina Faso dreamed of playing at the Oslo World Music Festival, but never got an answer. Instead, they were nominated for Norway's first folk music award.


Last Saturday, Adama Barry from Burkina Faso stood at the factory in Oslo with butterflies in her stomach. He has previously received his country's most prestigious cultural award, The National Week of Culture, but this feels special. For now, the flutist, dancer and singer from the nomadic Fulani tribe can be honored with the brand new Folkelarm award – aka the Norwegian Folk Music Award. Naheddi, the album Barry released this summer together with the Iraqi musicians Hassan Mahdi and Amir Saion, is nominated in the category «open class / experimental» – in competition with the fiddle player Nils Økland, the folk music group Majorstuen and Gjertrud's Gypsy Orchestra.

- We did not know that we were registered once, our record company had done that, the trio says to Ny Tid.

Didn't win

There will be no prize for the trio this Saturday night, for the first Open Class award goes to Geitungen and the album Good throw. It doesn't matter, because the nomination was a victory in itself.

- The nomination itself has given us a big boost and in itself means recognition. And that we become visible. It's a big encouragement to play even better and to make an even better record next time.

Naheddi is fulani, and can be translated with creative ability or ingenuity in a situation where one has little. Plata's traditional music has roots in Iraq and West Africa, and the guys sing in Arabic, Fulani and French while playing oud (string instrument), darabuka and djembe (percussion) and the traditional fulani flute douliarou. In other words, an unexpected nomination for the Norwegian Folk Music Prize.

- We with an Arab and African background know Western music very well, but here in the West there are very few who know ours. We want to experiment with rhythms and expressions from each other's traditions, and want to collaborate across Burkina, Iraqi and Norwegian traditions.

Silence from the festival

But what does the trio know about Norwegian folk music? Saion has played with a hardening error player, while Adama has played at Folk Music Week on Ål and with Terje Isungset. Saion and Mahdi answer:

- We know the harding fiddle well, and think it has a very nice sound. It has eight strings; four you play on and four that make a parallel sound and a great sound. But folk music is far stronger in Iraq than here in Norway. Especially among young people. Only American music applies here. With us, young people take traditional music and renew it to what suits their generation. With us, it is very important to be a good folk musician.

In Norway, on the other hand, it is far more difficult to get a gaming job. It usually ends in work at events specifically aimed at a multicultural audience or on special occasions such as the UN Day. And even when the musical profile is right, it's hard. The Oslo World Music Festival has been criticized several times for not letting go of world musicians who live and work in Norway, and Naheddi feels that this is still a problem.

- We agree with the criticism. We submitted our demo for last year's festival, but have not even received a response. This year where we have released our own CD, we should be self-written. And then we are also nominated for the Folkelarm award just before the world music festival begins. We are very happy about that, but it makes one think. We just want to play, and that for an audience.

Not immigrant music

How was that Naheddi nominated for a Norwegian folk music award? The Folklarm Awards are presented by the National Team of Players, and it is nominated in traditional folk music, old dance, gypsy music and Sami music, crossover records and something the organizers call "immigrant music". Folkelarm should be allowed to explain that term, because it does not at all apply to all music created by musicians with an immigrant background. Norwegian singer-songwriter Sofian and Norwegian-African hip-hop duo MadCon will never be nominated for Folkelarm.

- The practitioners must be resident in Norway and have an immigrant background. The term has been used for lack of something better, among other things we have experienced opposition to using the term «world music». We have also chosen to look at Sami music and music associated with Tatars and gypsies as part of the Norwegian music background. "Traditional immigrant music" is probably the best definition of what we are looking for, says project manager for Folkelarm, Frode Rolandsgard.

Here, on the other hand, Rolandsgard is not quite on the wave line with Naheddi. Initially, Amir and Hassan felt that the label was no problem, but eventually they came to the concept that it was unfortunate since "immigrant music" means just any music played by an immigrant. Which becomes a meaningless genre.

- "Immigrant music" is a closed term, which excludes collaboration with Norwegian musicians. Boundless music or traditional music is better, Barry believes, before the trio finally falls for the well-established world music. or world music in Norwegian translation.

- We believe that there is something very important in the concept of "world music", namely music without borders. "Boundless music" is an alternative, while "music without borders" is also a better Norwegianization of world music.

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