Razika: Norway's Queens of Ska

Music Features Razika
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Hometown: Bergen, Norway
Album: Program 91
For Fans Of: Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, The Strokes 

There isn’t much of a ska scene in Norway, where the male-dominated black-metal genre reigns supreme.

But Marie Amdam, Embla Karidotter Dahleng, Maria Råkil and Marie Moe aren’t pounding out power chords or screeching vocals over fast-moving tracks. All-girl band Razika’s poppy sound shines through the darkness, making them one of the only groups in the city of Bergen to perform the genre. But playing ska is no longer just a statement. It’s a passion.

Growing up, the young women were far more interested in music than the other people at their school. They loved groups like The Rolling Stones, The Doors and The Beatles. All of them played instruments independently; Amdam was trained classically on the piano, while Moe learned bass from her father who also played.

Vocalist Marie Amdam says the women of Razika “kind of knew each other” before they were even born. Their musician and actor parents ran in the same social circles for much of their youth. But it wasn’t until they hit high school that the four of them decided to form a band. “It was basically just a teenage dream,” Amdam adds.

While the other students were cramming for exams and spending much of their time on schoolwork, the women of Razika got to work writing songs and getting better acquainted with their instruments. There wasn’t much of a game plan. “When we started a band it was more like, ‘Why don’t you try to play the guitar and I’ll try the drums and you can try to sing,’” says bassist Marie Moe.

In 2008, the girls discovered reggae and ska music and became very interested in the genre because of its rhythms and melodies. “We just figured why don’t we try to mix this with our sound which is a little bit punky and poppy sound and try to make a good mixture out of it,” Moe says.

The new sound worked for them. And while the girls were still in high school, they began recording their debut album Program 91. The process took about a year since they were juggling classes and a recording schedule. The group, who formerly performed solely in English, started singing in their native Norwegian.

“You express yourself differently in Norwegian and in English, if you would understand Norwegian as well, you may see that the lyrics are similar but we are more honest in Norwegian because our [command of the] language is better and you get a little bit more honest and well-written.”

Even though many songs are written mostly in Norwegian, Razika‘s message is clear. Poppy third track “Vondt I hjertet” will be virtually impossible to understand for those who don’t have a knowledge of Razika’s native tongue. But the way the group writes songs makes it simple to get the gist of what they’re saying. Upbeat guitars gently strum along with a half-time chorus, bringing back memories of time spent goofing off with friends as a kid or days of reckless rebellion.

“Its very cliché [and] mostly about youth and love because we have been living with this band since we were 15,” Moe says. “We’ve been through teenage crushes and break-ups and ups and downs, and that’s something that is a great thing to write about.”

Their namesake encapsulates this idea. Razika was a slang word the group called guys they had crushes on growing up. They chose it because they wanted a name everyone in the group could relate to that also expressed their femininity since it is an African girls name.

While their femininity isn’t the central focus of their group by any means, Amdam says that they still get asked about it all the time. “We always get the question ‘How do you manage being girls in the musical environment since it’s so dominated by men,’” Amdam says. “It doesn’t matter for us because we think that we manage it; we’re doing fine and are doing great now, we don’t think it’s a problem. We just see it as a positive effect. People tend to get more interested in us because we are girls.”

But more than anything, it’s Razika’s deep bond between the members that make them seem destined to take the ska scene’s boys club and turn it on its head.

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