Thursday, 18 March 2010


Why walk from dishwasher to sink when I could dance? Why traipse to the cooker when I can do a soft-shoe-shuffle? Why open the fridge door without a dramatic flourish, as though it’s my latest tango partner? And why wouldn’t I pretzel with a pretzel? Since the kitchen is the place I end up spending too much of my time, I see no reason not to enjoy myself while I’m in there. So, obviously, duh....if last year’s Eurovision winner Alexander Rybak comes on the radio and blasts out ’Fairytale’ I’m going to be giving it the Full Fandango.

How was I to know there were four lugubrious teenagers watching me, open-mouthed, through the kitchen window? I didn’t know they were going to show up just then, did I? And anyway, that boy Alexander Rybak, he knows a thing or two about how to make a person dance.

Obviously people as ancient as me are not meant to dance around the kitchen. It’s appallingly hideous. But the open-mouthed teenagers made me realise something....they have absolutely no idea that anyone older than 21 would even CARE about how to dance, sing, or perform.

The current teenage mantra, ‘I want to be a popstar/singer/performer’ is so increasingly regular, it is becoming almost painful. So often those who say ‘it’s my life, it’s all I ever wanted to do, it means the world’ are forgetting that they might have to learn HOW to do it first. (Do I sound like an old bag? Excellent.)

In the week that the British public has voted for the UK entry into the Eurovision Song Contest 2010, Alexander has been on my mind, as well as in my ears. As last year’s winner, he has ensured that Oslo will host this year’s event. Personally, I think it’ll take quite a bit to improve on last year’s winning entry. Not only did he achieve 387 points for Norway, the highest tally any country has achieved in the history of Eurovision, but he came up with one of the catchiest tunes of the decade.

Now I admit some people might find the impish Alexander mildly irritating. His relentless, cheeky-chappie cuteness is on the very edge of being too much. But don’t let that image fool you. I reckon Mr Alexander Rybak knew EXACTLY what he was doing down to the last peg on his fiddle. If ever I saw an all-round song-and-dance man, it is he, from his dinky-dimples to his twinkle-toed tootsies. This boy knows how to entertain. He knows how to use his cuteness. And he knows he knows.

I appreciate it’s a bit off, but the reason I am smitten is because he is just so very good. I find it enormously refreshing that a young person who wishes to thrust themselves into the limelight should have bothered to learn his art me ‘old-fashioned’ but it makes sense to me.

Alexander, originally born in Belarus, which in 1986 was still part of the USSR, was the son of a classical pianist mother, and a father who was a well-known violinist. Music was natural, and sure enough, the four year old Alexander picked up his first fiddle just as the family moved to Norway. By the age of 10 he was studying at the Barratt Due Institute of Music in Oslo. The fiddle was always his thing, he was utterly at home with it tucked under his elfin chin, and he could do anything he liked with it. So what did he do? He supplemented his fiddle-playing with a natural flair for singing, acting, dancing, and writing music.

In assessing the talent shows of this world, he decided to win one. He entered Norway’s equivalent of X Factor in 2006 and reached the semi-finals. He then entered his own song, ‘Foolin’,’ into the next one, and played the fiddler in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ at the Oslo Nye Teatre,.for which he won an award. As Eurovision approached, he jotted down an award-winning song, picked up his fiddle, and off he went. If ever I saw a young man who knew exactly how to command the stage and hold an audience in the palm of his hand, it is Alexander Rybak.

So as Oslo awaits the madness that is the Eurovision Song Contest, for me Alexander’s win has rather shone a light on the whole industry. His years of learning his craft and his natural talent mean he is in control, and not necessarily at the mercy of record companies and style gurus...he can do exactly as he likes, and I predict he’ll carry on performing as, where and whatever his fancy takes him.

But his story is more than just a straight-forward triumph. It is a lesson in how to ‘dumb down’ intelligently. If popular culture must be subjected to an endless stream of talent shows and contests, it would do the hoards of hopeful contestants no harm at all if they ‘wise up’ and learn how to ‘dumb down’ properly.

So, with Alexander on my mind, polish your shell-likes. I’m in the mood to talk Norwegian music.


  1. Indeed, "Fairytale" is a very catchy tune. Too bad young Mr. Rybak (which btw translates into "fisherman" from Russian to English) doesn't seem to be able to handle the fame and limelight as well as he handles his fiddle....

    Talking of Norwegian music, I hope you will bring back to Scotland with you a CD or two by Vamp, a wonderful folkrock group from Haugesund.

    Five live performances with Vamp will most certainly be on my top five list of good memories from our six years in Stavanger. Not so great for dancing, though :)

  2. Shame....I guess 'how to handle fame' wasn't taught at his college. But I have faith he'll get over it, as long as he keeps fiddling.

    Vamp? I will seek them out.

  3. Have you heard "Yes Man" by Bjorn Johan Muri??? Talk about a catchy tune by a Norwegian. Madeline and I have dance parties to this number!

  4. How was I to know eve isk there were four lugubrious teenagers watching me, open-mouthed, through the kitchen window? I didn’t know they were going to show up just then, did I? And anyway, that boy Alexander Rybak, he knows a thing or buy eve isk two about how to make a person dance.