So, you’ve lived in Denmark for more than a year now, and you’ve enjoyed the nature, the cultural institutions, the work-life balance, but suddenly it occurs to you that you have only been listening to the same old tunes on Spotify, without even considering what the Danish music scene has to offer, and this my friend, is a mistake. Danish music and the Danish artist’s are of huge value to all Danes. We do not necessarily share the same taste in music, but I doubt it that you will be able to find two Danes who do not share at least one musician that they both like. Danish music, and music in general, is more than just tunes; it’s Denmark, it’s Danes, it’s our cultural history, it’s our cultural presence. Listen to the Danish musical artists, and you will not only hear, but experience what Denmark is. And once we are finally over this virus, do yourself a favor, and go see some Danish artists in concert – this is where the magic happens! If you’re still a virgin to the Danish music scene, here are my recommendations for 7 Danish music artist’s you should know.
- Kim Larsen
I don’t think it is possible to find a single Dane above 15, who cannot sing a line or two from at least one of Kim Larsen’s songs. Kim Larsen is well known, loved, and cherished among Danes, and everyone were affected in one way or another, when he passed away two years ago. His lyrics are full of love, full of criticism against our society, and full of respect for the less fortunate in Denmark. Kim was ‘one of the people’ rather than a big star. He never dressed fancy, and he continued to be himself. In the 70’s he was part of the rock band Gasolin, in the 90’s he formed Kim Larsen og Kjukken, all the while having a solo career as well. He put music to some of the most iconic movies in Denmark, he was a painter, and he wrote books. If you don’t know Kim Larsen yet, just try listening to ‘Kvindemin’, ‘Langebro’, ‘Det er en kold tid’, ‘Blaffersangen’ and many more. If you can sing along to a Kim Larsen song, your integration is complete, and Danes will love you for it.
Watch and listen to ‘Det er en kold tid’ here
- Bent Fabricius Bjerre
A truly iconic Danish musician and composer, is Bent Fabricius Bjerre. In the 50’s he founded his own record company, and signed some of the most popular artists of that time. In 1962 Bent had his international breakthrough with ‘Alley Cat’, a piece that won him a Grammy. Through the years Bent has put music to some of our most cherished Danish television shows and movies, such as ‘Matador’ and ‘Olsen Banden’. Every Dane knows at least one of Bent’s compositions, which is quite spectacular, since they are often without lyrics. In 2004 the then 80 year old musician reinvented himself as Bent Fabric, and made a record of collaborations with some of the most important Danish musicians of the time. The record included the hit song ‘Jukebox’, which made it to the American dance floors and became a very popular dance-song. Bent was a person that everyone respected. His entire life’s work together with his very noble look, demanded respect. Bent died this summer, 2020. If you appreciate some quality music, you should definitely give Bent Fabricius Bjerre a listen. Maybe try the songs I already mentioned, or check out ‘Pinchcliffe Opening’, ‘I’m Confessing’, ‘Pusterummet’ or ‘As time goes by’.
Watch and listen to ‘Matador’ here
- Anne Linnet
Anne Linnet is possibly the most well-known and respected woman in Danish music. Her musical background catalogue is beyond this world. She is not only a singer, she is one of our most treasured song writers, she is an author, she is a composer, and she fights for gender equality. Anne Linnet formed the rock band Shit og Chanel in the 70’s, followed by Anne Linnet Band, and Marquis de Sade. Since then she has held a very successful solo career. With Shit og Chanel Anne Linnet critisiced society, and pushed the boundaries for female empowerment. With Marquis de Sade she pushed the boundaries even further by writing songs about S&M and other sexual quirks and performing with people wearing rubber clothes. Later on she put music to one of our most beloved Danish poets Tove Ditlevsen, with huge success. Almost everything Anne Linnet touches turns to gold, and she is highly respected in the industry, as well as among the Danes. She does however push some people away because of her provocative nature, but at the same time I would argue that some of her work her let the way to changes in our society, and made us more diverse. How can you not love that about her? If you have yet to listen to her work I would suggest you try out ‘Smuk og dejlig’, ‘Balløven’, ‘Glor på vinduer’, ‘Marquis de Sade’, and since we are getting closer to Christmas ‘Lille Messias’.
Watch and listen to ‘Glor på vinduer’ here
The sound of Danish childhood: Sebastian. Sebastians lyrical universe is full of magic, play, and love. He has written songs, he has composed music, and he has composed the music to musicals. Sebastian is a true legend in Danish musical history. He started out in the late 60’s and has since sold more than 2 million albums. He has a tradition of inviting other artists in to sing with him, or to sing his music for him, with great success. His lyrics are, as before mentioned, full of magic, and very child-friendly, and some have a more political agenda, but together they are all very poetic, and if you close your eyes while listening to his songs, you will see his words unfold like an alternate universe. He paints with words, and his words give meaning to people of all ages – that is truly spectacular, in my opinion. I would suggest you put on Sebastians music, close your eyes and start dreaming while listening to ‘Når lyset bryder frem’, ‘Du er ikke alene’, ‘Romeo’, ‘Rose’ or ‘Her er en sang’. To be honest, my eyes are tearing up just writing about his songs. While pregnant I listened a lot to Sebastian, and whenever my toddler has a tantrum, I calm her down by singing ‘Når lyset bryder frem’ for her. It always works.
Listen to ‘Når lyset bryder frem’ here
- Thomas Helmig
Thomas Helmig, the sound of Aarhus, is definitely someone you should know, if you’re ever at a party with Danes. If the party is getting a bit dull, put on some Thomas Helmig, and you will see Danes hitting the dance floor, and singing along. Thomas Helmig was (and still is) a great singer in the 80’s and made all Danish women fall in love with him, with his soft, flirty voice, and his subtle, but intriguing dance moves in concert. A couple of years ago the Danish music festival NorthSide in Aarhus booked Thomas Helmig to play at a crucial time, and they were met with huge criticism, since many musical ‘experts’ found Thomas Helmig to be outdated and a bit corny. But, the criticism was brought to shame, when the concert had a huge turnout and the audience were more engaged in the concert than in any other concert at the festival – because that is what Thomas Helmig does; whether you like his music or not, it is almost impossible not to sing along or do a little dance, when you listen to his music, and you will hardly find any Dane who does not know the chorus to ‘Det er mig der står herude og banker på’, a song you should definitely be listening to! Other than that one, check out ‘Stupid man’, ‘Nu hvor du har brændt mig af’, and one of his more recent ones ‘Malaga’.
Listen to ‘Det er mig der står herude og banker på’ here
Danish humor is something special. It is full of sarcasm and irony, and quite frankly, we use it a lot – also in music! TV-2 is a perfect example of this. This Aarhus-based group was formed in the 80’s and are to this day very popular, and they still play sold-out concerts. The frontman is called Steffen Brandt, a former Danish teacher at a high school, and he has a way with words. His rhymes and lyrics in general, and his sense of using ‘åh ja åh ja, bi ba ba lu la, uåuåuå’ in almost all of their songs makes him iconic in Denmark. You are never in doubt when you hear a TV-2 song. Their songs are both critical to society, romantic, and much more. They are full of symbolism and are quite often used for teaching at school. The band also call themselves ‘Danmarks kedeligste orkester’ (Denmark’s most boring orchestra), once again showing their sense for sarcasm. Personally some of the best concerts I have ever attended, have been with TV-2, because the atmosphere around the band, the audience singing along to all the songs, the sarcasm, the non-subtle joy the band show when playing is like nothing else. Steffen Brandt is also known for doing collaborations with upcoming artists, with huge success. He did this with the Danish singer-songwriter Tina Dickow, and she is now one of the leading Danish female singers (need proof? Check out ‘Solen er så rød mor’ on Youtube, and you will get chills, and quite possibly start crying. Like me.). TV-2 is definitely a band you should know, and as soon as this COVID thing is better, I’ll be buying tickets to see them live – they are the joy we need at this moment! If you don’t know them yet, I recommend you listen to ‘Bag duggede ruder’, ‘Lanternen’, ‘De første kærester på månen’, ‘Ræven og rønnebærrene’. ‘Alt hvad hun ville var at danse’, and many many more.
Watch and listen to ‘Bag duggede ruder’ here
This one might not be iconic – yet! But it is my personal favorite, and for that reason (and many more) it deserves a spot on this list. Folkeklubben is a band consisting of three members; Rasmus, Rasmus, and Kjartan. Rasmus and Rasmus are incredibly gifted musicians, and just like Steffen Brandt from TV-2, Kjartan has a background in teaching, which shows in his lyrics. The lyrics are not just poetic, but also critical to society, and sometimes sarcastic. The three men compliment each other in the most wholesome way, and the sound they create together, is like nothing else. Their music is a mix between pop, folk, and rock, making them easy on the ears for most people, I would suggest. Folkeklubben is much more than an ‘album-band’ – they go on tours every year, and they make it their mission to visit almost all places in Denmark. Seeing them in concert is amazing. They tell stories between each song, and their charisma shines from the stage to the audience. Folkeklubben is a band you need to see, need to witness, need to experience, and if you’d let me, I’d love to take you all to one of their concerts, as soon as we are done with COVID. I personally love Folkeklubben, and have been a huge fan ever since they started their journey in 2011. As with Sebastian’s ‘Når lyset bryder frem’, I have also sung and played Folkeklubben’s ‘Blomsten og Vasen’ (written by Benny Holst) for my daughter since she was in my belly, and it was even played as I was giving birth. A truly magical moment, and to this day the lyrics, the music, and the soft voice of Kjartan backed by Rasmus and Rasmus still makes me cry. Every time. If you are new to Folkeklubben you should listen to ‘Sort tulipan’, ‘Men ikke endnu en vinter’, ‘Husk mit navn’, and ‘Der brænder en ild’ from their new album that was released a week ago.
Watch and listen to ‘Sort tulipan’ here