(Written by Irena Bay)
Once upon a time, there was a boy who had a dream of making people smile – a dream of telling them a story with his song. His dream came true!
It was on May 16th, 2009, in the Russian capital Moscow, when Alexander Rybak’s song, smile and fiddle enchanted the hearts of the people of Europe. It won him the Eurovision Song Contest trophy and awarded him with the highest number of points ever achieved in the contest: 387! Ever since that day, mobile phones all over Europe, and in the rest of the world too, ring the melody of “Fairytale” into outer space! 🙂
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and to be loved in return!”
Alexander Rybak was born as a cute, stubborn and talented baby on May 13th, 1986, in Minsk, Belarus (which was part of the Soviet Union back then) to pianist Natalia and the violinist Igor. When Alexander was three years old, his father Igor went touring with a musical ensemble, and before he realized what had hit him, he helplessly “left his heart in Norway”! He decided to stay there. Strange times began for the little family: the mother Natalia was left alone in Belarus with the little boy, while the father Igor worked very hard in Oslo for a few years to save up money so that he would be able to bring his family over to this Scandinavian country. It must have been a lonely and difficult time for all of them.
But then the BIG day arrived! Alexander, who was five years old, and his mother took a train to Oslo. They traveled for two days through the heart of Europe to be greeted by Alex’s father and the fresh Norwegian air. Soon, they found a house in Nesodden – a district on the peninsula Nesoddtangen in the Osloer fjord (which is a salt-water lake). They still live in Nesodden to this date, by the way.
Throughout this time, Alexander was taught how to play the piano, and when they arrived in Norway, his father started to teach him how to play the violin. Very soon, Igor realized that his son had great potential in music, and decided to direct his son’s focus onto the violin.
While most Norwegian kids would be busy playing outside, Alexander had to stay in and play the violin for hours on end each day. “This stinks!” he would think. “I don’t want to!” he would tell his parents. It was no use. At times, this caused Alex to become very frustrated and angry. To calm him down, his parents bought him LEGOs to play with. That made it a bit better! 🙂
Life was not so easy for the young fiddler. He did not speak Norwegian, and thus could not understand the kids at school and they could not understand him. This made the little boy sad. Some of the kids weren’t so nice to him either – he looked different, dressed different, and played the violin aaaaall theeee tiiiime! Unfortunately, some children bullied him because of this. Luckily, he did manage to find a couple of close friends, and they helped him get by each day.
Later, when he reached the age of ten and started attending the music school in Olso called “The Barratt Due Academy”, Alex was making lots of friends. How did he manage to do so, you ask? By cracking jokes! That’s why he is so funny today – he’s been goofing around ever since he was a child;) And that’s one thing what we like about him: his sense of humor!
But cracking jokes was not enough to make the girls like him. He thought about that a lot. So, he decided to become a singer! (Well, you know, ’cause the girls like singers! ;)) But how could he do that? He thought some more.
Meanwhile, being a student of the music school, the fiddler realized that his teachers and parents wanted him to perform music in a more conventional manner. That wasn’t exactly what he wanted to hear. So, he fought with them, trying to play music they way it was supposed to be played according to his heart. Sometimes he won the fights; at other times, he was not heard.
Alexander soon began to realize the three important things which would influence his life forever:
Most people did not believe in Alex’s vision of how music should be played, and so one of the greatest obstacles he faced was to actually get people to listen to him. However, once he managed to do so, the surprise on his audience’s faces – the eyes that sparkled with dreams and the smiles that illuminated the entire room – was the greatest thing he had ever witnessed! The feeling that overcame him when he could make people smile in such a way was “fantastisk” (Norwegian for “fantastic”). He reached the conclusion that one must always do what their heart urges is best, despite what all others might claim.
“Someday, you all will see it!” And he was right: we all see it now. 🙂
Things are very complicated in life. For example, he was born in Belarus, but lived most of his life in Norway. Is he Belarusian or Norwegian? He would always be considered Norwegian to the Belarusians and Belarusian to the Norwegians. Very confusing, as you see. There are no right or wrong answers, so how does one answer them? The trick is to keep it simple! “My roots are human!” Alexander realized that the most beautiful things in the world are often simple: the air up in the mountains of the Norwegian island Giske, for instance. Or Norwegian folk songs and old Soviet movie soundtracks: their melodies are beautiful because they are simple. Or girls smiling: just a smile, a simple smile, and he lost his head again! Yes, yes – he thought a looooot about girls!
When you try new things, you are bound to make mistakes – ’cause you’ve never done it before! That makes sense. He will make mistakes, and learn from them. He knows that he should never lose faith in himself, try to be someone he’s not, or says things that other people want him to say. It’s better to make mistakes rather than to stop being truthful to one’s self.
So years passed by and the desire to fulfill his dream became stronger (while his interest in girls also became stronger – LOL, I am sticking to my theory here, people. Why? See point nr. 3). Alex was very lucky, ’cause he turned out to have grown into a really cute teenage-boy. (Well, yes, he had pimples, too, but he still was really handsome). And he started developing greater interest in singing and jazz music. Ever since he was a young boy, he has been composing songs and it was only natural that one day, he would want to share his music with the world. He wanted to be seen! He wanted to be on stage! So he decided to test the waters of the pop music world.
You can imagine the shock he gave his parents (who were classical musicians) and his music teachers with this grand decision, especially since he was such a gifted violinist. He had even won numerous competitions in classical music, including the “Annual Anders Culture Prize” in 2004. They tried to talk him out of it. But it was a good thing that he had already established his three-point-theory in his heart – at least, that is what I believe. 😉
As a first step, he tried auditioning for the Norwegian TV show “Idol” and sang “My song”. He stank and was rejected. (Maybe he was rejected because it was not really “his” song?) Anyway, he knew that he stank, so he practiced some more and tried out for Norwegian TV competition “Kjempesjansen” in 2006. This show basically screamed “This is THE freaking chance of your life, Alexander Rybak! Show us what you’re really made of. It’s now or never!”
By this time, Alexander was fully fluent in Norwegian, so he understood the meaning of “Kjempesjansen”. He went home and composed his jazzy song “Foolin’ ” This time, he had listened to his heart. Point #4 was added to the list: To tell people a story! A story about himself. And so, on this show, he accompanied himself on several instruments and sang a song which was truly “his” song- and he won gloriously!
Things began to look good for the fiddler! He was becoming recognized for his own unique music (points 1, 2, 3 & 4). He impressed a few folks in the music business in Norway and was invited to perform in the musical “The Fiddler on the Roof” – but that wasn’t all: he was considered such a precious talent that the producers of the musical wrote a part specially for him! A part that was not in the original production! He gained a lot of experience at the theater (with 97 performances) and proved that he was not bad in acting either. His performance in the musical was awarded with the “Hedda Prize” in 2007, and that led to the offer of a supporting role in the children’s movie “Yohann – Barnevanderen” where he played a gypsy.
After that, the fiddler took his fiddle and went “loffen” (or something like that) on the island Giske again – he likes to do that in the summer time. “Loffen” is a Norwegian tradition where the wanderers knock at people’s doors and, in exchange for some help with chores, they can spend the night at their house, get something to eat and get to know the hosts. This is where the fiddler learned that flirting with the girls in front of their fathers is not such a good idea.
Anyway, since the fiddler can’t really build cupboards and is not so good with doing the dishes, he played his violin and sang for the hosts. By then, he was quite popular in Norway, so after some time on his trip, people started to follow him like in the movie “Forrest Gump”. 🙂
One day, the fiddler stopped to rest from hiking on a mountain. The view was incredible! The nature was overwhelming! The warmth of the sun made you feel alive! (LOL, I am talking like I was there! FYI: I wasn’t). Alex took his fiddle out of its black case and let his hands do whatever they wanted. After some time of playing and drifting off into a little daydream, he heard himself playing a melody. “That’s sounded nice! What is it again?” It was only later that he realized that the melody was his own creation! The following days, he walked and hummed it. Bit by bit, word by word, a song was born. A song about a lost first love and a song about the faith in love! A fairytale! He went through his four-point-plan of his “Fulfilling Your Dreams” project and stopped at number 2.
It was clear to him very early on that he had to perform this song at a place where it could get the recognition it deserved: The Eurovision Song Contest!
It was as if destiny had laid the path out for him: that very year, the contest would be taken place in Moscow! He, who was born in the Soviet Union, should participate in a contest in front of the people who were connected to him by history, culture and language! So much destiny that it can freak you out, to be honest. So he sweat blood and tears practicing non-stop during those six months before contest.
There was another wondrous “written in the stars” element about the Eurovision fairytale: his path was crossed by a group of dancers who preserved the tradition of Norwegian folk dances, “The Frikar Dance Company”. Their presence on the stage behind this boy who was once strange and but enchanted by the world – while he, himself, had the power to enchant the world – would lift up the simple melody that swings the chords of magic.
The rest is history, my friends! 🙂
He came. He saw. He won.
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and be loved in return.”
“What’s up with the quote, Irena?”, you ask. Well, life goes on…after some time, the three-point program of the project “Live Your Dreams” becomes a four-point program … then, with new dreams, a six-point project…you get the idea.
So, this is not the end of a fairytale …
…THIS IS ONLY THE BEGINNING !
* Date of birth: May 13th, 1986
* Place of birth: in Minsk (Belarus)
* Mother: Natalia Gurina
* Father: Igor Rybak
* Immigration to Norway: 1991/1992
* Student of classical music and violin at “Barrat Due Academy” in Oslo
* Concert director of the “Ung Symfoni” orchestra in Bergen (Norway)
* “Anders Award” 2004
* Participation in the TV show “Idol” in 2005
* “Kjempesjansen” 2006 with the self-composed song “Foolin'”
* “Heddaprisen” for “Fiddler on the Roof” 2007
* Supporting role in the movie “Yohan” (released in 2010)
* ESC 2009: 387 points of a total 2436 points which is a record in the history of Eurovision Song Contest … 15,89% voted for him
* For ESC.today: Best Male Performance Award 2009 at ESC with 47.8% of the votes.
* “Marcel Bezencon Award: Press Award 2009” at the ESC
* The video of his performance of “Fairytale” in ESC on youtube has over 60 million views
* On May 18th, “Fairytale” reached # 1 on iTunes
* leading role in the opera-musical “Some Sunny Nights” in 2009
* Lent his voice for the animated movie “How to Train a Dragon” (DreamWorks) in 2010
Languages: Russian, Norwegian, English
Instruments: violin, piano, guitar, violin as banjo 😉
attracts freaking talented and funny people (!) 😛
This post is also available in Deutsch.