From the far reaches of the globe, hope emanates through the power of representation. Norway is home to a dynamic Tamil folk-rock band that encapsulates this sentiment - 9 Grader Nord (9 degrees north). All the way from Bergen, Norway, this band draws inspiration from a wide array of musical styles, including Carnatic music, baila, and Tamil folk music.
Since their formation in 2017, 9 Grader Nord has captured the hearts of audiences worldwide with their energetic performances and profound dedication to preserving their Tamil cultural heritage.
For Mira and Dipha, the band's driving force, this commitment is deeply personal. Their parents fled the civil war in Sri Lanka in the 1980s, igniting a lifelong dedication to preserving their Tamil identity.
What sets them apart is their spirited, rebellious, and self-assured stage presence, as 9 Grader Nord employs a diverse range of instruments, such as the bamboo flute and cajon, to craft a distinct and magnetic sound. Since their formation in 2017, the band has graced countless festivals, club stages, and television shows, tantalising audiences with their electrifying performances.
Past their electrifying performances, 9 Grader Nord has ventured into exciting collaborations and projects. They have worked with the Norwegian Broadcasting Orchestra, interpreting the works of renowned artist Edvard Munch, and embarked on school tours throughout Norway, engaging and inspiring young minds with their music.
The band's latest single, Viduppu, meaning gossip/curiosity, delves into the inner conflicts experienced by young minorities as they navigate the complexities of belonging to two worlds. The poignant lyrics poignantly express the struggle of reconciling cultural identity in a foreign land:
"The one you saw yesterday in the short dress, that was indeed me, The one hiding the bottle in the dickey, that was indeed me, The one acting like a foreigner, pretending not to know Tamil, that was indeed me…"
These lines encapsulate the universal experience of feeling judged and misunderstood, highlighting the challenges faced by immigrants and those seeking to preserve their heritage while adapting to a new environment. "Viduppu" acts as a decisive reminder of the importance of embracing one's true self.
In their previous single, Vayppu (meaning opportunity), 9 Grader Nord sheds light on the plight of vulnerable workers in the job market, drawing inspiration from the experiences of Tamil refugees who arrived in Norway in the 1970s. The song resonates with themes of perseverance, loyalty, and the relentless pursuit of a better life:
"They were thankful for the opportunity, obeyed the rules and did not question the injustice of the system. They worked in the fishing industry. The first Tamil refugees. In search of protection and freedom. Like a hamster on a wheel, endlessly spinning. Loyalty binds us, and we keep reproducing our system."
In 2019, Mira Thiruchelvam, the band's producer and composer, received a prestigious award in Norway for their first album, JAFFNA. This album shows how important it is for them to preserve their Tamil heritage. It's the reason behind their choice to sing in Tamil and proudly don traditional attire from their homeland. After the success of JAFFNA, the band is getting ready to release their highly anticipated second album, Yalpanam, on November 17th.
Using their platform to celebrate their Tamil heritage and shed light on important social issues, the band invites audiences to reflect on themes of identity, belonging, and the resilience of the human spirit. 9 Grader Nord, hence, is one of the mascots of Tamil culture and conscience.
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