Rybak remains on a roll

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The fairy tale continues for Norway’s new musical sensation Alexander Rybak. A month after winning the Eurovision Song Contest with his song called

“Fairytale,” he continues to pop up on national TV specials, his new album has topped the charts and he’s booked for concerts all summer long. Most of them are sold out, including one at Oslo’s Opera House.It’s as if the public can’t get enough of the young man who was born in the former Soviet Union but grew up on Nesodden, just across the fjord from Oslo, when his musician father defected in 1990.

Rybak himself seems dazed by all the new-found success. “I really will stop reading about myself soon, I promise,” he told newspaper VG’s weekend magazine recently, after another late-night session of poring over web sites full of stories about him.

The 23-year-old has been something of a musical prodigy, though, all his life. Both his mother Natasja and his father Igor were trained as classical musicians and Igor Rybak was playing in the Minsk Chamber Orchestra when it made a fateful tour to Norway 19 years ago.

When the orchestra’s Aeroflot flight took off from Oslo’s old airport at Fornebu after its last concert on the tour, one violinist was lacking. Igor Rybak had gone into hiding, eventually won asylum in Norway and then worked hard to get his wife and then-four-year-old son to Norway as well. He eventually succeeded.

“What papa did, was heroic for us,” Alexander told magazine VG Helg. He has a close relationship with both his parents, who in turn have supported and prodded him along since he first started exhibiting musical interest and talent as a little boy. Alexander makes no secret of his love, admiration and respect for his parents, and writes on the liner notes of his new album that “I will never forget what my parents have done for me, and I know I never would have come so far without them.”They made him practice the piano and violin, for example, at least two hours a day most of his young life. “It was just completely natural that I would become a musician,” Alexander told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) in a recent TV special. “And I was pushed by my parents. I remember being surprised when I discovered that hey, don’t all kids have to practice for hours, every single day?”

He revealed that he was bullied and teased at school because he did practice so much. After he started classes at Norway’s renowned Barratt Due Music Institute in Oslo, though, he was bullied and teased because he wasn’t practicing as much as many of his new fellow students. His decision to move over to pop music and start competing on local TV talent shows, including the Norwegian version of Idol , also was viewed by some as “not serious enough” for the likes of Barratt Due, but school leaders ultimately found it amusing. “I think they thought it was kind of fun,” Alexander told NRK.

Rybak composes most of his music, writes his own lyrics and has combined his piano- and violin-playing with pop music in a way that gives him a unique appeal. He freely admits his biggest fans are children and the elderly, although folks of all ages were clapping and singing along when he belted out “Fairy Tale” at the Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow and won more points than any other musician in the contest, ever.

Now he’s keen on retaining full control over his music and his career. He faces an exhausting concert schedule all over Norway this summer, then wants to concentrate on more composing and more albums. His CD, put out by EMI Music Norway, logged record sales when released a few weeks ago, is still Number-One on Norwegian hit lists and “Fairy Tale” has topped the downloading lists all over Europe. He was headlining a huge, free outdoor concert staged on the large plaza outside Oslo’s City Hall Friday night, playing with the likes of well-known Norwegian band a-ha, Kool and the Gang and Big Bang. An estimated 100,000 spectators were expected to be on hand.