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How this landscape influenced modern dance music

Artists hailing from Norway revolutionized the urban club music scene in the 90s and 00s. A new movie explains how that could happen.

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Northern Disco Lights is the name of a new documentary made by the English director Ben Davies. It’s about the musical revolution that has been going on in Norway since the 90s, when a new wave of Norwegian artists hit the international club scene.

Artists such as Röyksopp, Bjørn Torske, Erot, Annie and Mental Overdrive made hits, got great reviews and was invited to play in large clubs and arenas all over the world.

Suddenly, club enthusiasts looked to Norway, and the most avid fans travelled from all over the world to Bergen, Oslo or Tromsø in order to participate in parties and club nights.

The full title of the movie is “Northern Disco Lights – the rise and rise of Norwegian Club Music”, and – as the title suggests – after the first generation of pioneers came a new wave of producers and DJs, such as Todd Terje, Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas.

 

But how could this happen in Norway? Traditionally more known for its majestic, open landscapes than sweaty, urban clubs?

That’s the key question of the film.

The British producer and director hired the Norwegian director of photography Terje Rafaelsen to shoot the movie, and he became involved in editing and financing as well.

“What do foreigners think of when someone mentions Norwegian culture? The fjords and traditional instruments like the Hardanger fiddle, perhaps. And there’s nothing wrong with that. However, it’s nice to show the world that Norwegians can be really cool and forward facing as well”, says Rafaelsen.

Even though the musicians do not find that the surrounding nature has influenced the music that much, the producers wanted to include some spectacular nature shots in the film, from places such as Fjord Norway, Tromsø and the Lofoten Islands.

One of these scenes is a performance from Bjørn Torske at the top of Mount Fløya.

 

Mr. Rafaelsen thinks that the movie got an extra edge by being directed by a foreigner, who had a genuine curiosity about what it means to be Norwegian and why it’s significant that the music originates from here.

“I find it really interesting that the disco was revitalized in Norway, of all places. That this small country would reinvent the genre and influence dance music all over the world is worth documenting. It’s a Norwegian cultural history”, director Ben Davis told the newspaper iTromsø last year.

Northern Disco Lights

Northern Disco Lights had its world premiere during Bergen International Film Festival in September, and will be shown at several large film festivals before its ordinary release.

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