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Kari Bremnes - "Words are precious to me"

Kari Bremnes sees herself as "a songwriter". With this she not only underlines that to her lyrics are very important, but that the music definitely belongs to her and is not just being sung by her. With "Over En By" Kari Bremnes returns to her Norwegian mother togue—whereas her English sung album "Norwegian Mood" from 2000 was more or less openly aimed at the international market.

Kari Bremnes

It ist true, actually, that the attractive woman from the Lofotes Islands, who this year celebrates her 50th birthday, really feels more at ease with the Norwegian language. Some people call Kari Bremnes, whose songs are poetic jewels, "Norway's best singer". This may very well be—in this interview she tells at lot about herself and her songs ..

Carina Prange talked to Kari Bremnes in Berlin

Carina: When you do a song live, do you feel like you were part of a story happening at that same moment? Is performing new and exciting each time?

Kari: To me, performing is new every time! I am very much aware of the moment, the "here-and-now" when it comes to do a live performing. This is what I like most about concerts, and no concert is like the other, no audience either.

Even if I have performed a song several times before, I always have the feeling of telling the story for the first time when I do it live. It has to be like that. I have to believe in what I sing to make other people believe it`s true.

Kari Bremnes

Carina: You have written lots of song-lyrics and poems as well. Would you call youself more a lyricist and a poet than a singer? Is poetry and writing something you feel a need for? A need to express things?

Kari: I find it hard to separate my artistic and musical expression. My songs and my voice are in a way connected to each other. I regard myself, though, maybe more as a storyteller than a singer. And yes, poetry and writing is definitely something I feel a need for.

Words are precious to me. I always seek for words to express what happens here, inside myself, between people and around us. I need the words for navigation. I don`t know what I would do if I hadn`t had the words.

Kari Bremnes

Carina: Your concerts always turn out as an experience for the listener—how do you get the magic and energy into the performances? How do you prepare for stage—by meditating?

Kari: Thank you for that! As I said earlier, every concert is a thing of its own, a special event. I can`t lean on yesterday, I have to start all over again. What I need before a concert is to be alone for a while, to be able to be fully concentrated. I am never any good at smalltalk before a concert.

When I get this time alone, I use to go through the songs in my mind - to focus on what this is all about, what I really want to express. I also warm up my voice, of course. But I would say that the mental thing is the most important one to me. I might be nervous days before a concert, but when I get this time alone—I usually get the focus I need. I also have to touch the musicians before we go on stage, the touch can be very briefly, but utterly necessary.

Kari Bremnes - "Over en By"

Carina: Last year you did a concert together with Ketil Bjørnstad with whom I interviewed last fall. In this concert you performed a program connected with the painter Edvard Munch. What fascinates you about Munch and his paintings?

Kari: Edvard Munch was able to express deep, strong human feelings through his paintings. Everyone can find something of themselves in his work, I think. His paintings are about the strong passions of life, naked, sometimes brutal, but with a raw beauty and holiness in them. I am deeply moved by Edvard Munchs paintings, to me they seem very true.

Carina: On the album "You'd have to be here" you sang all songs in English. Why did you change the concept now and returned to writing and singing in Norwegian again? If you compare singing in these two languages—what feels more comfortable?

Kari: This time I felt hat the way of singing the words was so connected to the music. The sounds of the words kind of slipped into every note, I didn`t want to change that.

Carina: Is the expression of a mood and of the feelings always deeper in the mother language?

Kari: I think that the mother language always would be nearest to my heart, yet I also feel free about expressing myself in English. I like the idea that people understand my stories, observations and statements. I just hope that my audience can live with my schizophrenia, it is in the end a matter of communication. I use the instruments I have, to be understood.

Carina: In 1998 you wrote lyrics and monologues and compositions for a CD called "Svarta Björn". What was this theatre-play about? Is the railway-cook Svarta Björn some kind of a Norwegian national legend?

Kari: This play was about a legendary woman in northern part of Norway. It was a one-woman-performance, with me, Helge Norbakken and Bengt Hanssen on drums and keyboards. I was telling the story of her life—a very dramatic life! In the play I am placed in the sky, looking down on the world of today, looking back on my (her) life ... Yes, you might call her a national legend!

Carina: "En rød for alt de søte"—when did you start this project and was it planned to become a book from the beginning? It seems to be full of song-lyrics and poetry. Please explain a little further what´s it all about...

Kari: Indeed, this book wasn`t meant to become a book from the beginning! I talked to my friend Liv Andrea Mosdøl, the great illustrator, she made several of my cd-covers, including "Over en by", and we wanted to do something more together. I wrote some new things, and collected some of my song-lyrics—and she made her own pictures. So it became a book.

Kari Bremnes

Carina: Writing texts for songs is something that happens over a long period of time. Do you always carry a notebook with you to scribble down notes?

Kari: Usually I do bring a notebook, just in case. Ideas have a tendency to appear when you expect it the least. So it is good to be prepared!

Carina: To come back to your new album—is there one song, that you feel connected to in a special way, one song you love most?

Kari: "Stjernelause døgn" is very close to me. It took my a long time to write it. It is about deep sorrow. How it can affect a person so much that you see no light anywhere, but darkness only. Still, in the darkness, you can hear your own heartbeat, if you are able to listen, steady like a clock heading for a new morning.

Carina: What are the songs "Per og Pål og Janus" and "Hvis du kommer tebake en dag" about?

Kari: "Per og Pål og Janus" is about hippocrism. "Hvis du kommer tebake en dag" is a song I wrote after a trip to Palestine and Israel. I saw the wall they are building, I saw the Israelian soldiers, their weapons. I saw the Palestinian people, poor, humiliated, desperate, separated by the wall. I couldn`t stop wondering about which side Jesus would be on, if he came back.

Carina Prange

CD: Kari Bremnes - "Over en By" (Strange Ways/Indigo CD 865582)

Kari Bremnes im Internet: www.karibremnes.no

Strange Ways im Internet: www.strangeways.de

Fotos: Øyvind Toft (www.karibremnes.no)

© jazzdimensions 2006
erschienen: 30.8.2006
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