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UN censors Norwegian girls’ despot song: report

The dreams of dozens of Norwegian girls ended in disenchantment on Saturday when organizers axed part of their show at the UN General Assembly in New York, citing concerns over lyrics listing some of history’s worst tyrants.

UN censors Norwegian girls' despot song: report

The 46 members of the Norwegian Girls Choir had long looked forward to performing their song about war and peace at the General Assembly Hall, newspaper Aftenposten reports.

But the girls, aged 12 to 19, never got to realize their ambition after the organizers of the Rhythms of One World Festival took fright on hearing the choir sound-check.

As conductor Anne Karin Sundal-Ask worked out some of the details for the stage show with a lighting technician, the choir shrieked out the names of infamous tyrants from Hitler and Mussolini to Quisling, Stalin, Lenin, Castro, Tito, Maria Antoinette and Papa Doc.

“The mood changed quickly at that point and they wanted a list of all the names,” Sundal Ask told the newspaper.

The choir leader said she was willing to compromise and remove some of the names but the organizers at the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation eventually told her the girls were not going to be allowed to perform the piece.

“They said the UN wouldn’t sanction it,” said Sundal Ask.

The choir instead sang its folk music repertoire, but having to resort to the fallback plan left a bitter taste for the girls, the composer and the conductor.

“This is freedom of speech, and the piece is about war and peace,” said Sundal Ask.

“It’s a very unifying piece. It doesn’t feel good to be censored or to not be allowed express oneself artistically.”

With its ultimate message of peace, the conductor said it was “absurd” for the piece to be to be kept out of the UN headquarters.  

Written specifically for the Norwegian Girls Choir, the piece has been performed all over the world since winning a competition in Japan five years ago.

Composer Maja Ratkje said she was shocked that the piece had been struck off the programme in New York.

“As far as I’m aware, this is the first time my art has been censored,” she said.

The Norwegian Girls Choir performing the piece, Ro Uro, in Trondheim, 2009.

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YOUTUBE

‘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.

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