Friday, 1 February 2013

The weird, weird world of Pjokken Eide

 Northern Norway is much like Western Cornwall, in that when you visit you’re likely to meet people who could only possibly inhabit the distant corners of the known world. One such man is Pjokken Eide, a senior figure in the civic life of Tromsø. I was there earlier this week to cover the Northern Lights Festival and ran into Pjokken a couple of times. The Festival’s chairman is out of town, so Pjokken is standing in, styling himself the “chairman substitute”. He’s been giving speeches and introductions at a number of formal receptions, and doing so very well, but to look at him it is hard to imagine quite how he fits into the formal, and usually very boring, world of civic receptions and corporate hospitality.

It turns out that Pjokken has just retired from an amazingly varied career. He’s been involved in arts management in Bergen - and if you ever meet him, ask him to tell you the story about how he secured the funding for the Bergen concert hall, a stroke of genius. He also once ran an advertising agency – “You could always tell when an advert was made by Pjokken” somebody in Tromsø told me, and I can well believe it. Most impressively, he spent many years as head of the Norwegian Seafood Council. Here he is inspecting some of the produce (he’s the one on the right, obviously):

But throughout all this, Pjokken has also pursued a bizarre and fascinating music career. In the 60s and 70s he was a member of the band Popol Vuh. Check out this video, in which he “plays” a piano in ways that need to be seen to be believed. Pjokken described the piano to me as “top of the props: no strings, no keys - meant to be seen only from behind”. As far as he can remember, his only contribution to the soundtrack here was the tambourine, although he also played flute and trombone for the band:

He also produced two solo albums around this time and I’m delighted to report that both are on Spotify. They are psychedelic experiences both, in a gentle, folksy sort of way: 

What next? Renaissance music of course. When we met he was full of stories about this album, on which he plays Renaissance trombone, and on one track uses a mousetrap to mimic the sound of self-flagellation in a song dating back to when the plague reached Bergen:

In more recent years the checked tweed suit seems to have become a trademark. He told me that today his musical activities are limited to playing the trombone in an amateur orchestra in Tromsø. However, he marked his retirement from the Norwegian Seafood Council in 2011 with a musical spectacular that the fish traders of Norway are unlikely to forget in a hurry. As a parting gift he wrote them an anthem. As he put it to me “The song is meant to be for the entire seafood industry in Norway what You'll never walk alone is for Liverpool FC.” The lyrics, he says, are “pompous to the extreme”, and, as you’ll hear, Henry Mancini, is channelled at various key moments. Take it away Pjokken!


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