Greenlandic Music

A music-loving people

Most people know where Greenland is on the map, but did you know that every year in Greenland some 10-15 CDs featuring Greenlandic music are released? And that the best-selling CDs sell 5,000 copies? Perhaps that doesn't sound like much, but is actually quite impressive in a country that is home to just 56,000 inhabitants.

From drum singing to choral singing

Musicians from Greenland originally played on a drum (qilaat) made from an oval wooden frame covered with the bladder of a polar bear. Unlike other drums, the qilaat was played by hitting the frame with a stick, and not the skin itself. This modest instrument was used for a variety of purposes including entertainment, exorcism and witchcraft.

After the missionaries arrived, drum dancing was prohibited and was later replaced by part-singing of psalms and choral works, which today are known for their particular Greenlandic sound. Today drum dance is used as entertainment at cultural events and on festive occasions.

New inspiration from abroad

Greenlandic music is inspired and influenced by music from other cultures. These include Dutch and Scottish polka, American country and rock 'n' roll and even Hawaiian music.

The introduction of radio and vinyl records in Greenland following the Second World War meant that a wide range of popular music was suddenly generally available, and as such provided inspiration for Greenlanders to imitate these genres in their own bands.

From popular music to rap and techno

Popular music did not gain a particular Greenlandic identity until the start of the '70s with the emergence of the band SUME. Songs of a political and cultural nature sung in Greenlandic stimulated a growing interest in Greenlandic music.

Also entering the music scene in the '70s is popular folk singer Rasmus Lyberth who sings in Greenlandic, but is well known beyond Greenland borders.

Since that time new bands have followed in rapid succession with musical styles including pop, rock, jazz, blues, rap and techno. More recently, internationally performing bands and soloists such as Chilly Friday, Angu, Julie Berthelsen and Kimmernaq have also emerged.

Modern Greenlandic music today

A major new name on the Greenlandic music scene is Nive Nielsen, who, with her band Deer Children, released her debut album "Nive Sings" at the beginning of 2009.

Prior to this release, Nive had no experience as a singer or songwriter, but a ukulele that was given to her and an encounter with the well-known producer John Parish changed everything. See one of the results here in the popular hit "Room".

Nanook - a popular band in Greenland and abroad

Nanook is a relatively new pop/rock band in Greenland. The band's first single, "Seqinitta Qinngorpaatit", from 2009 was not only a big hit in Greenland, but Nanook has also attracted fans from beyond the country's borders despite the fact that it exclusively performs songs with Greenlandic lyrics. Such interest includes the TV station Discovery Channel, which has purchased the rights to use several of Nanook's songs in the series 'Flying Wild Alaska'.

On the album's ten songs Nanook expresses its distinctive style, and the music represents a new acoustic image, in which the songs consist of catchy and melodic numbers that have lots of new nuances in terms of changes of rhythm and advanced sounds. For example, after the intro, the first song begins with a clear Greenlandic drum which introduces the listener to Nanook's universe. Several surprises appear when listening to the album as a whole, with violins and xylophones each having their own minor roles in the overall concept of the album.

Singer with international focus

In terms of individual male singers, Simon Lynge is a new and interesting name backed by an English record label and for whom a promising musical career is predicted. Simon has a Greenlandic/Danish background, like many others in Greenland, and has lived and worked in both Los Angeles and Nashville.

With his melodic songs with English lyrics and his obvious partiality to Simon & Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills & Nash, he attracts a market segment which normally has many fans. See an example here from a video recorded on a glacier near Tasiilaq.

His debut album, The Future (May 2010), has been referred to by the BBC in positive tones and by several of the 'quality' British newspapers, but don't just take our word for it. Have a look and a listen yourself at Simon Lynge's website - or even better: Buy the album!

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