Racism row mars Norwegian music awards

Norwegian singer Lars Erik Blokkhus angered audience members and TV viewers on Saturday night with an ill-judged remark he made while picking up an award from two black artists at the national music awards.

Racism row mars Norwegian music awards
Photo: Fredrik Varfjell/Scanpix

Blokkhus and his band, Plumbo, took to the stage to accept the Hit of the Year award for their hit song Møkkamann, or ‘dirty man’, at Saturday night’s Spellemann awards.

Receiving the prize from hip-hop duo Madcon, Blokkhus said, “When I look at you two, the song suddenly gets a new name: Mokkamann [mocha man].”

The clear reference to Tshawe Baqwa and Yosef Wolde-Mariam’s skin colour first caused the pair to laugh, before the joke seemed to sink in and they walked off stage in disgust.

The ill-advised one-liner prompted a furious reaction. Audience members booed the Plumbo singer, another band’s guitarist poured beer on his head, while comments flooded in on Twitter and Facebook from politicians, artists and members of the public.

After the show, Tshawe Baqwa labelled Blokkhus a "fittehøl", an extremely vulgar expression describing the female genitalia. His choice of insult further fanned the flames of a dispute that already had the internet overheating.   

Once tempers had cooled down, the bands apologized to each other for their comments and said the dispute was already forgotten. 

Broadcaster NRK accepted Plumbo’s climb-down and said the band would be permitted to participate in the national qualifiers for the Eurovision Song Contest as planned. 

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‘Take On Me’ tops a billion YouTube views: What makes 80s Norwegian hit so enduring?

It’s arguably the biggest success in the history of Norwegian pop, and A-ha’s 1984 pop classic ‘Take On Me’ this week reached a new milestone.

'Take On Me' tops a billion YouTube views: What makes 80s Norwegian hit so enduring?
A-Ha performing in 2015. Photo: AFP

The song combines synthpop with acoustic guitars, keyboards and drums and is indisputably the band’s signature tune and one of the most evocative pop songs of the decade.

That is complemented by a memorable music video which combined live action sequences with black-and-white pencil sketch animated overlays, in what was then an innovative technique called rotoscoping. It won six awards at the 1986 MTV Music Video Awards.

Perhaps the combination of both music and visuals has driven Take On Me into the realms of YouTube royalty. The official video, originally released in 1985, was recently restored and upgraded to 4K resolution to improve visual quality, Warner Music Norway wrote in a press statement.

In any case, A-ha now join a small list of artists with music videos that have tipped the 10-figure mark for total views on the social media website.

While South Korean rapper Psy’s 2012 hit Gangnam Style and Despacito by Luis Fonsi (2017) have famously garnered monstrous numbers of YouTube views, it’s arguably harder for songs which pre-date widespread use of the Internet to rack up those kind of figures.

Take On Me joins two Guns N’ Roses songs (November Rain, Sweet Child o’ Mine), Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit in an elite club of just five songs from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s with over a billion views.

Numb by Linkin Park was the first pre-YouTube video from the 2000s to reach a billion views.

“Obviously the video is unique and it has some features that stand up and stand the test of time,” he shared. “It’s hand drawn which makes it what it is,” A-ha guitarist Magne Furuholmen told Billboard last year.

“The song also seems to resonate with people across time. It’s just very fortunate to have such a big song in our catalogue,” Furuholmen said.

“We probably spent a few years talking it down, trying to get people to focus on new stuff we’re doing. At this point, certainly speaking for myself, I’m just surprised and proud that the song has done so well and still finds an audience,” he added.