Article from Swedish newspaper “Friskispressen”, published in the 4th issue, 2009 Author: Gösta Elmquist.
Translation by Mary-Ann Hansson, English revision by Anni Jowett
AGE: 23 years.
PROFESSION: Musician / artist.
LIVES: Nesodden, outside Oslo.
LIKES 1: Jazz, classical, pop. And film.
LIKES 2: “I like when girls touch my upper body when we talk.”
CURRENT: The CD “Fairytales”
IDOL: Gene Kelly (because he was such a versatile artist).
FAVOURITE MUSCLE: Arms and chest.
He lifts his violin, grabs his bow and – bang! The show is running. Gym instructor Alexander whirls, jumps, kneels down. Every muscle is about to explode. Calves, thighs, stomach, back – everything is trimmed at Friskis & Svettis in Oslo.
Alexander Rybak, 23, the fiddler who got the whole world at his feet, has found a trick that no other violinist could dream of.
– Working out at Friskis & Svettis.
“It is the spice that makes my show exciting. I have more energy and self-confidence”, he says.
Three years ago, Alexander got his license as a gym instructor. In the beginning it was easy to book instruction time with him on the F&S in Vika, Oslo. Today, it is not. Alexander has taken time off from instructing at Friskis & Svettis to become a world artist.
Wherever Alexander appears there are endless lines of mainly teenage girls and their mothers. Even world-famous violinists such as Pinchas Zukerman, are happy to work with the 23-year-old, President Lukashenko in the old country Belarus flatters with a tribute concert to Alexander’s honour. Entire symphony orchestras in Norway are sometimes led by Alexander. Sometimes he plays a solo on his violin, he sometimes accompanies opera singers. Alexander plays jazz, composes pop songs and acts in plays and films.
Behind the shy boyish fringe and bushy eyebrows a pair of curious eyes peer at the world. Alexander meets all hysterical tributes with a giant smile. Will he never FEEL bothered, annoyed, angry, or at least a little bit tired of all the fuss? “Friskispressen” followed Alexander Rybak in a completely “normal” appearance in Vällingby centre outside Stockholm.
It was not a concert, just a few hours of autograph writing in a department store that was about to release Alexander’s latest CD.
Police cars guarded the building where thousands of people gathered. Security guards blocked the entrances and ushered endless numbers of people into the signing autograph line with a moderate flow. On a stage in the foyer Alexander stood and received greetings with wide eyes and a big smile. The violin lay on the table along with a stuffed animal while flower blooms with small pieces of paper filled with declarations of love spread their scent.
Which is the best part – pulling the bow across the violin or lifting weights at Friskis & Svettis?
– It depends on if I have an audience or not, he says.
He doesn’t run out of spectators and on Facebook there is growing number of Alexander groups all the time. A Facebook group that constantly gets new members is “Mothers who wants Alexander Rybak as son in law.”
The story of Alexander could be a musical about the bullied refugee child who grows up as a musical prodigy to finally conquer the world.
Alexander, or rather Alieksándr Ígaravitj Rybak, was born on 13 May 1986 in the city of Minsk in the former Soviet Union. His father Igor was a famous violinist and mother Natasha a successful pianist.
Much later, his father understood that it had been clear from birth that Alexander would become an artist.
Alexander, who has played violin and piano since he was five, had an unusual upbringing. While his friends were out playing, Alexander practised on the violin. Sometimes three hours a day. If he ever protested his parents bribed him with – Lego.
As a 14-year-old, he entered the Barratt Dues Music Institute. That’s were he met his first big love, Ingrid. And it was her who got Alexander to join Friskis & Svettis. Ingrid did not think Alexander’s body was that good. In addition, she bragged about the beautiful body of another guy.
-“I was pissed. Disliked the competition”, says Alexander.
A stronger, leaner body and better health might help. At Friskis & Svettis in Oslo they didn’t realize what was to come when the little self-conscious thin musician boy first appeared in the gym.
But then Alexander got started. He was just as intense in the gym as with his fiddle. And suddenly there he was, as a gym instructor.
– Instructor’s involvement was not so hard. It was just talking a few hours a week. Moreover, I could get time off occasionally to play.
That was then – before January this year when Alexander competed in the Norwegian selection for the Eurovision Song Contest. The fiddler arrived like a storm wind in the Norwegian living rooms with his Fairytale. He knocked down all opposition, became a Norwegian super-hero and had to take time off from the gym at Friskis & Svettis. The relationship with Ingrid had ended after five years. But it was to her he wrote the winning song Fairytale.
If anyone had thought that Alexander would soon be back at Friskis & Svettis from his “leave”, it was definitely not to happen after the European final in Moscow. Since then the whole Europe calls for him and almost every night he gives a concert.
But F&S is still there and one day Alexander is sure to return there again.
-“Friskis & Svettis have a good attitude. It’s not that remarkable. Just like I want to be. It’s nice to train with like-minded people and the best part is that you never feel wrong or outcast”, says Alexander.
At Friskis & Svettis in Oslo they have not forgotten their gym instructor either. Everywhere, in the gym and where they keep fit sessions, Alexander’s “Fairytale” sounds from the speakers. The Norwegian fairy song conquered not only Europe but also Friskis & Svettis.
5 questions to Alexander:
How does training affect your music?
I become angry and aggressive when I don’t get to practise. Exercise gives me better balance and I have more physical strength during the concerts. I radiate more power.
How often do you work out during the tours?
Too seldom. But I do some push-ups and sit-ups when I get time. And sit-downs … Often I work without knowing it. For example, I cycle to and from the beach, working in the house or working in the garden.
What do you train?
Under normal circumstances, I vary between spinning and weight lifting and working out 4-5 times a week.
Most importantly, chest, back and arms.
Why did you choose to train at Friskis & Svettis?
In my industry there are many critics who see me as a little boy and are skeptical about my ideas. Therefore, it is so nice at Friskis & Svettis where everyone says hi to me and I experience an instant success every time I’m done with a weight.
What is your favorite muscle?
I like it when girls touches on my upper body as we speak. Therefore, I stay in great shape around the chest and arms. That’s how it is.