In late July Norwegians gathered spontaneously with flowers and song, after terrorist attacks left 77 persons dead. On Thursday, many were planning to sing out once again, after the home-grown terrorist who killed and maimed hundreds of their fellow Norwegians further provoked them with derogatory comments about one song and songwriter in particular.
Norway is in the midst of a difficult trial that’s bring back painful memories of last summer’s attacks. The confessed attacker, Anders Behring Breivik, already knows he’s, in his own words, “the most hated man in Norway.” He added to the public sentiment against him when he, during recent testimony at his trial in Oslo, called cherished local folk singer Lillebjørn Nilsen a “self-declared Marxist.” Breivik also claimed in court that Nilsen’s Norwegian version of a Pete Seeger song was used to “brainwash” Norwegian school children into embracing a multi-cultural society.
The song in question is called Barn av regnbuen (Children of the Rainbow – external link), based on the now-93-year-old Seeger’s song My Rainbow Race. Nilsen wrote the song’s Norwegian lyrics in 1973 and it was among many songs performed when more than 100,000 Norwegians gathered in grief on the plaza in front of Oslo City Hall after the July 22 attacks. Lillebjørn Nilsen has said he’s proud to call himself a friend of Seeger, a prolific American artist known for classics like Where have all the flowers gone? and This Land is My Land.
See video of the City Hall memorial, when the song was played, here.
Now two Oslo women, Christine Bar and Lill Hjønnevåg, are organizing an impromptu songfest on the large plaza known as Youngstorget at noon on Thursday. The idea is to sing Barn av regnbuen, and then march towards the courthouse as part of protest against Breivik and “to take Lillebjørn Nilsen’s song back.”
Hjønnevåg said she and Bar initially planned to simply sing on the plaza in front of the Oslo courthouse itself. “It quickly became clear that we’d probably be far too many people,” she told news bureau NTB. “So we got permission to sing at Youngstorget.”
On Wednesday night, Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that Lillebjørn Nilsen, age 62, had agreed to attend the gathering in Oslo and lead the singing himself. Hjønnevåg and Bar were thrilled. Around 3,000 persons had already stated in social media that they’d show up to sing by Tuesday. Similar song demonstrations were being organized in Tromsø, Svolvær, Hamar, Drammen, Elverum and Kristiansand.
Here are the song lyrics, with our attempt at a translation off to the side:
En himmel full av stjerner (A heaven full of stars)
Blått hav så langt du ser (Blue seas as far as you can see)
En jord der blomster gror (A world where flowers grow)
Kan du ønske mer ? (Can you ask for anything more?)
Sammen skal vi leve (We shall live together)
hver søster og hver bror (Every sister and every brother)
Små barn av regnbuen (Small children of the rainbow)
og en frodig jord. (And a blossoming world.)
Noen tror det ikke nytter (Some don’t think it matters)
Andre kaster tiden bort med prat (Others waste time with small talk)
Noen tror at vi kan leve av (Some thing we can live on…
plast og syntetisk mat. (…plastic and synthetic food.)
Og noen stjeler fra de unge (And some steal from the young)
som blir sendt ut for å sloss (who are sent off to fight.)
Noen stjeler fra de mange (Some steal from the masses)
som kommer etter oss (who come after us.)
Si det til alle barna! (Tell all the children)
Og si det til hver far og mor: (And tell every father and mother)
Ennå har vi en sjanse (That we still have a chance)
til å dele et håp på jord. (to share hope for the world.)
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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