Home » – This city is Little Bear’s kingdom. He is Oslo’s poet no. 1, says Jonas Alaska

– This city is Little Bear’s kingdom. He is Oslo’s poet no. 1, says Jonas Alaska

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– This city is Little Bear’s kingdom.  He is Oslo’s poet no. 1, says Jonas Alaska

Jonas Alaska

Jonas Alaska was waiting for the bus at Marienlyst when he read the news about Lillebjørn Nilsen’s passing. The next day he wrote his first song in Norwegian, dedicated to Lillebjørn.

– Nice to talk to you since you wrote a song for Lillebjørn after his death, tell us a little about it?

– Yes, it was all a bit strange. I had no plans to write anything in Norwegian. I always thought I wouldn’t dare. But the day after Lillebjørn died, I sat down in the studio and started writing. I had Lillebjørn in mind and heard his voice in my head while writing the song dedicated to him.

Jonas Alaska was waiting for the bus at Marienlyst when he read the news about Lillebjørn Nilsen’s passing. The next day he wrote his first song in Norwegian, dedicated to Lillebjørn. Photo: Nikolai Grasaasen

– What has Lillebjørn Nilsen’s music meant to you?

– I grew up listening to Lillebjørn’s songs, as both mum and dad are very fond of his music. So they listened to him a lot when I was growing up. His music has probably been in the back of my mind and influenced me more than I realized.

– I remember seeing him at Øyafestivalen in 2011 or 2012. It was incredibly powerful to see him play live. His whole concert was like a show of power, I was impressed after the end of each song.

From the queue at Little Bear’s funeral. Five people about their relationship with Lillebjørn

– Do you remember the first time you heard a Lillebjørn Nilsen song?

– No, as mentioned, I grew up with his music so it is difficult to remember the first memory. But his music definitely shaped a good part of my childhood.

– Where were you and how did you feel when you heard the news that Lillebjørn had passed away?

– I was waiting for the bus at Marienlyst. I was a little surprised at how hard that news hit me. It probably had something to do with the fact that I was going to travel on the bus in Oslo, and that it was so gray and dreary outside. This city is Little Bear’s kingdom. He is Oslo’s No. 1 poet.

– Do you have a favorite song of his?

– Oh, it’s very difficult to choose one because he has so much good stuff. “Aleksander Kiellands Plass” is a song that really moves me. I have lived there myself, with children. “Quiet Boy in Dormitory 1” is also very nice.

– Do you have a place or area in Oslo that you particularly associate with Lillebjørn?

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– Yes, it must be Aleksander Kielland’s place. When I lived there, I knew that he had lived in Uelandsgate. So I thought about him a lot during that period of my life. I moved from there a year and a half ago.

Lars Lillo-Stenberg

DeLillo’s frontman, Lars Lillo-Stenberg, has been close to Lillebjørn Nilsen in his own career, such as during the recording of the song “Gul og Vissen” on the “Nære Nilsen” record in 1993.

Lars Lillo-Stenberg has been close to Lillebjørn in his own career, including during the recording of the Nære Nilsen record. Photo: Frank Michaelsen

– What has Lillebjørn Nilsen’s music meant to you?

– His music has always been up there as the most solid within Norwegian ballads. Like something noble in Norwegian popular music when I was growing up. I largely had a radio and television relationship with him in my youth.

– Do you remember the first time you heard a Lillebjørn Nilsen song?

– My brother had the “Young Norwegian” record from 1968, so I wasn’t an old boy then. 6 years maybe, there was, among other things, “Dance now, don’t cry”.

– Where were you and how did you feel when you heard the news that Lillebjørn had passed away?

– I was in the studio when I heard the news. I thought it was sad that he didn’t realize new songs in recent years. But the times I met him, he didn’t seem bothered by it. He had more than enough with the ones he had released, he told me. It is clear now that it was a sad death message.

– Do you have a favorite song of his?

– I am very happy with the song “Alexander Kiellands Plass”. I myself have had the pleasure of performing both with “Father has told” and “By summer”. They are both very nice songs.

Dear and familiar faces from music and cultural life were at Lillebjørn’s funeral. See the pictures

– Do you have a place or area in Oslo that you particularly associate with Lillebjørn?

– It must be the part of Maridalsveien where Lillebjørn lived. I sat there and practiced with him when we made the song “Gul og Vissen” together, on the “Nære Nilsen” album. Otherwise, he sings about Herregårdskroa in “Bysommer”, and I imagine him in that place as well.

– You have been close to Lillebjørn, including during the recording of the Nære Nilsen record. What was it like working with Lillebjørn, and do you have a favorite memory of him?

– Yes, we had a short period when we saw each other a little. And I became a bit close to him then. He had his own songwriter’s studio down Skippergata, and there was a desk with blank sheets, pencil and eraser, plus tuning fork and rhyming dictionary on the shelf. Of the old school, that is!

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– Lillebjørn Nilsen taught me the technique of starting the writing process by creating a “monster text”, which meant just singing about nonsense. He also surprised me by often creating the melody before the lyrics, just as I did myself. It was an honor to be invited into his sphere and I was pleased that he was so open to a younger and more inexperienced colleague like myself.

Don Martin

Don Martin, like Lillebjørn, is an Oslo poet, and in 2013 released the song “Nilsen” with Tommy Tee.

Don Martin thinks Lillebjørn’s music has a song for every different occasion. Here he is during a performance at the National Theater in 2020. Photo: Heiko Junge / NTB

– Like Lillebjørn Nilsen, you are also an Oslo poet and wrote, among other things, the song Nilsen. What has Lillebjørn Nilsen meant to you in your own design as an Oslo poet?

– It’s a big question, but I think that few, if any, have managed to capture the city’s soul in the way that Lillebjørn Nilsen has. He had a soft-spokenness both in how he wrote and sang. Lillebjørn had a clear and conscious project to write both for and from the Oslo he knew and which was his.

– His contributions to the tug-of-war about how our society should be have affected us all. On the subway on the way home from his funeral on Friday, I met a childhood friend. I told him that I had just been to Lillebjørn’s funeral, and then we started talking about how we sang “Children of the Rainbow” together as children, just after he came to Norway. He said that he understood even then that there was a seriousness in the message in that song. It does so in many of Lillebjørn’s songs.

Lillebjørn’s best friend: – Just before Christmas was my last meeting with him. Again enriching conversations late into the night

– What has Lillebjørn Nilsen’s music meant to you?

– Well, when I got off the subway today, after meeting my childhood friend, I pondered how much “Children of the Rainbow” had to say for the fight for community and against racism in Norway, when we were growing up. I don’t think you should underestimate that kind of thing.

– Do you remember the first time you heard a Lillebjørn Nilsen song?

– I don’t know if it was the first time, but I remember when I got the “Hilsen Nilsen” disc on LP, and that the song that really hit me on it was “Luse-Franz”. I was 7 years old then.

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– Do you have a favorite song of his?

– I almost never have one favorite of anything, because different things happen at different times. This is definitely the case with Lillebjørn’s music – he has a lot of different things that range widely and suit different situations and times. But right now I think that many people know that “Good night, Oslo” is one of the songs that hits the hardest. At least I do.

– Do you have a place or area in Oslo that you particularly associate with Lillebjørn?

– No. This whole town is Little Bear’s.

Sondre Lerche

Sondre Lerche learned to play the guitar, among other things, with the help of Lillebjørn’s guitar book.

Sondre Lerche was widely exposed to Lillebjørn’s music through school, including through Lillebjørn’s guitar book. Here from Øyafestivalen 2022 Photo: Heiko Junge/NTB

– What has Lillebjørn Nilsen’s music meant to you?

– Like most of my generation, he was very present through the songs I listened to in my childhood. But I have gained a more personal relationship with the artist Lillebjørn as an adult, and he has grown a lot in me.

– Do you remember the first time you heard a Lillebjørn Nilsen song?

– It was enough in the classroom. Se Altid Lyst På Livet was just one of many of his songs we learned to play. Lillebjørn is not only the national anthem for both adults and children, he also taught many of us to play the guitar!

The mayor: – Lillebjørn loved Oslo, and Oslo loved Lillebjørn back

– Where were you and how did you feel when you heard the news that Lillebjørn had passed away?

– I sat in the car and drove, and remained silent for an hour when the news hit. I thought of small meetings and encouraging greetings we have exchanged over the years. While I was driving, I heard his songs inside me, as he often said himself that he listened to music, inside himself.

– Do you have a favorite song of his?

– “So Close We Were”. I also had the pleasure of interpreting it myself on his tribute album in 2021. It was great for me to know that he vouched for it.

– Do you have a place or area in Oslo that you particularly associate with Lillebjørn?

– Not really, since I’m not from here. But it’s exciting to think that the whole city is like a backdrop for his singing skills, now that I live here myself!

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