Article about Alexander Rybak’s concert in Skellefteå. Swedish magazine “Rumba”


Fairytale in Skellefteå

Short internet-version of the article: Link to the original article here (no longer available) Author: Bertil Håkansson Translation by Ebba Raab

The guy with the fiddle, Alexander Rybak, had his big breakthrough in 2009 when he won Eurovision Song Contest with the song ”Fairytale”. Recently he had two concerts in Skellefteå backed up by 250 string-students.

It all began when Siw Burman, the president in RUMs Västbottens district went to Norway. She was invited to participate in a camp where Alexander played with children and teenagers.

”I was impressed, she says. He was really good.”

She decided to try to get him to Sweden. One year later he held a workshop in Skellefteå, with young musicians from Umeå, Robertsfors, Lycksele (swedish towns) and all other small communities in Västerbotten.

That ended up in two sold out concerts where the students and Rybak really raised the roof!
The project was sponsored by RUM and the culture school in Skellefteå

Pictures from  the concert.  See more here (no longer available)


Article from the magazine

Text & Photo: Bertil Håkansson

Scans provided by Ania Babik. Translation by Ingegerd Claesson and Jorunn Ekre. English revision by Katie Anderson

The cover of the magazine

Alexander Rybak in Skellefteå

Mail to my sister February 18 2013:

-Bastuträsk next!

I stand by the window and see lonely  bogs and millions of snow covered spruce trees. It’s a beautiful desolation unfolding in the morning haze.

From Bastuträsk I will try to get to Skellefteå. There, I will meet a lot of children, who are preparing for a concert with the Norwegian pop star Alexander Rybak.

The road winds between snowdrifts and frozen signs that tell of forgotten villages. A capercaillie watches, surprised at how the post bus slows down at the hairpin curve before the side road to Skråmträsk.

There: The pop-star didn’t have time for a ten minute interview. Shit, I thought, as I went in to the dining hall and sat down beside some boys. One of them had come all alone from Afghanistan to Lycksele. In ten months he had  learned to speak Swedish and to play the violin.

That will be my story. Hug


YES, IT WAS LIKE THAT. But, I didn’t write that Alexander Rybak did a fantastic job with the 250 children who had come to Skellefteå from Umeå, Robertsfors, Lycksele, and other small communities  in the coastland of Västerbotten.

The background was the trip that Siw Burman, the chairman of the Västerbotten district of RUM, and some culture school students made to Mo i Rana in Norway. They were invited to take part in a camp with Alexander Rybak.

-I was so impressed, he was so good with the children and the  youth, tells Siw. He  treated them with all seriousness, and was a great inspiration for all of us. Then I felt that it would be fun to get him to Västerbotten.

Siw is known for two things . Part for being a “riksspelman” (a national folk musician ), and part for getting things done.

She realized that Lycksele, with it’s 8,513 inhabitants, was to small for an event of this caliber. She contacted the culture school in Skellefteå, they took the bait. Teachers and students put in a lot of effort, and a year later everything was ready. They had practiced Rybak’s songs. He had made written arrangements, and adjusted parts for the different knowledge levels of the students.

NOW HE SUDDENLY STANDS there, right among them- he who won Eurovision song contest in 2009 with his own song “Fairytale”. He who got a higher score than any other artist in the history of the show.

He looks a bit different with glasses, a striped sweater, and his hair sticking up a bit. But, there’s nothing wrong with the spirit, and he conducts the large orchestra with certain authority and respect.

– It’s really fun to play with him , says Elliott,12. From Lycksele. You feel important.

Two sold out concerts the day after Melodifestivalen visited Skellefteå gives a hint about how big the event was. It felt like half the town was there. And for the participants in the orchestra the concert was a milestone, something to remember, to draw inspiration from.

-It was cool, says Malcom Sowe Dahlèn, 10, also from Lycksele.

Two days after the concert I called Alexander at the number he had given me. No answer. On the other hand, I get an answer to  mail. He is in New York and can only give the interview in writing.

What was it with “Fairytale” that made it such a success? 

– It’s the anger theory which comes from Bach. All chords have their own strength, and if you put them together correctly it can become an irresistible harmony.

Is the same element in other songs you’ve written?

-Yes, I like to use a classical foundation when writing music. There’s enough pop music in the world which consist of two chords and three tones.

How much music and how many lyrics do you write? 

– I write maybe four new songs every day, but I throw most of them in the trash pretty fast.

What does it mean for you to work with kids like you did in Skellefteå? 

– Everyone in the world has a mission. My mission  is to inspire young talents to practice their instrument.

What can you give them? What do they give you? 

– I think kids like that I play in different genres. And they understand that I respect them, because I’m strict.

From what I understand, you were more or less forced by your parents to practice the violin and the piano for several hours a day. Would you do that to your own kids if you had any?

– I don’t think mom and dad would have forced me into practicing if they hadn’t noticed I had talent.

Your dad took a big risk when he defected from Belarus in 1990 with the KGB following him. How do you consider this today?

– I’m grateful every day.

Did the drama around your dad choosing to defect  affect you? Do you have any memories from it?

– I only remember that mom and I had to be on our own in Belarus for three years, while dad had to be alone in Norway to save money. It was hard on all three of us.

What has your background from Belarus meant to your career?

– My Slavic background means that I like to show the nostalgic and melancholic sides of myself. And in happy Norway and Sweden it can be very unique.

What was it like to grow up in Norway? I read you were bullied? Is this true?

– Yes, but the word bullied can be misused. I could have worn a bit better clothing  and showered more often, and then I could have avoided the problem.

Does Norway take care of their talents? 

– Yes, but Sweden is better. I think we should have photos of Morten Harket and Edvard Grieg at Gardermoen, like that you have of your stars at Arlanda.

Tell us about the tour you’re doing now.

– I take much of the responsibility upon myself, and decide to go to many new countries every month. After Sweden I go straight to Greece, New York, Toronto, and then later Moscow.

Success for RUM in Västerbotten

It’s going well for Rum in Västerbotten

-We have had a fantastic increase, says Siw Burman, chairman of the district. Now we are the third largest youth organisation, just like the national organisation. It’s the fourth year we are active, and now we are getting to know each other. We  work on development all the time, and there are new organisations and members.

What makes you successful?

There has been an increasing  need. In many places we have also worked with mixing professionals and children, a kind of  mentoring program that works very well here, with Alex and Umefolk.

Any more plans?

– A Singing camp, and a pop&rock camp in the mountains.

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