New styles and new languages

Starting in the late 1970s and during the 1980s and 1990s, the record company ULO faced some competition from minor recording studios that emerged in Greenland along with a couple of new record companies. This led to a significant increase in the number of music releases that were either produced in Greenland or produced in Denmark by Greenlanders and targeted the Greenlandic music market. Before the CD became the preferred medium for music, a significant market for cassette tapes emerged with these smaller studios. These tapes were often recorded and released by shops that sold radio and television equipment across the west coast. The four-track cassette recorders often used for these productions did not encourage large ensembles, and as the electric organ and keyboard became affordable, the one-person band emerged that made use of the instruments’ built-in functions for accompaniment. This development resulted in a new style of music in Greenland, often referred to as suaasat-music or suaasat-rock. The style gets its name from the way meat is traditionally prepared in Greenland as suaasat (‘soup’). The lyrical themes featured in this style of music usually deal with love, family relations, locality or the nation in a nostalgic manner, and the music mainly addresses an adult audience. The lyrics are almost entirely in Greenlandic (cf. Johansen 1991: 67; Bjørst 2004: 14-5).

The popularity of Greenlandic lyrics in locally produced popular music, that had existed since Sume released their first album, was challenged in the second half of the 1990s. The first release that featured English lyrics in this period was “Stay put” by the band Century Schoolbook, but the album did not receive much attention in Greenland. Nanu Disco’s “In search of the roots” (1998) was another release from the period that featured English language as part of the music, primarily in the form of voice-over narration layered above the dance music of the album. This English narration seems to be an attempt to make the music accessible to English-speaking listeners, as it tells of, and idealizes, a mythical era before Greenland was colonized, when the Inuit population lived in harmony with nature and with supernatural beings. The narration is clearly inspired by Greenlandic myths and the music on the album repeatedly attempts to connect the dance music style with this mythical pre-colonial Greenland, by using elements like the sounds of howling huskies, the frame drum, and ethnographic recordings of song (cf. Johansen 2001). It is worth noting that the album was produced by a Danish DJ Morten Stjernholm a.k.a. Svend Break. It may seem that the album is based on an outsider’s exotic fantasies of a Greenlandic pre-colonial place. Ironically, the album never gained international success, but in the late 1990s, Nuuk youth danced to the sounds of Nanu Disco when going out.

Fig 13: ”No Past – No Future” by Nanu Disco (1998).

 Nanu Disco

The first widely popular pop-rock album partly featuring English lyrics that was released in this period was “Inuiaat 2000” (2000) (‘The people in the year 2000’), by the band Chilly Friday. The album was released by the new record company Atlantic Music, a company that grabbed most of the national music market during the first decade of the millennium. Despite the English lyrics on “Inuiaat 2000”, Atlantic Music, like ULO, has in general focused on music featuring Greenlandic lyrics. “Inuiaat 2000” was heavily inspired by grunge music from the 1990s, by bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and in the album tracks that feature English lyrics and deal with subjects like sex, parties and complicated love, there seems to be no overt connection between music and a Greenlandic place. It is of course a different matter in the songs where the lyrics are in Greenlandic, and the band eventually turned towards primarily producing songs with Greenlandic lyrics, as they released three more albums from 2001-2005. The themes of the songs changed over time as well and became more concerned with political topics and social problems like suicide (Interview with Angunnguaq Larsen, 27 June 2009). This turn can be viewed as a turn towards a more local context, since suicide is a significant social problem in Greenland and is an important and popular topic in Greenlandic oral tradition as well as in written literature (Thisted 1992).

Fig 14: The official music video for the track ”Sialuit” (’Rain drops’) by Chilly Friday (2001).


Themes such as suicide and other social problems have featured in Greenlandic rap music as well. Rap emerged in Greenland during the 1980s with the group Nuuk Posse (cf. Johansen 2001: 182). The group’s music primarily featured Greenlandic lyrics, though they rapped in both English and Danish on some tracks. Nuuk Posse was thus ahead of the general music scene in using English lyrics, and somewhat off it in their use of Danish, since Danish has so far not become an accepted language for Greenlandic artists. Going with the general trend of rap music, it nonetheless seemed pivotal to Nuuk Posse to express local identity, to which the name of the group bears witness (cf. Miller 2012: 272) (cf. fig 15). It was however not Nuuk Posse that became famous for bringing social and political agendas into rap music in Greenland, but the group Prussic with their debut album “Misiliineq Siulleq” (‘The first attempt’) (2003). Through this album the group set up new standards for what themes could be debated through music. An example of this is the song “Angajoqqaat” (‘Parents’), which is an angry message to their parents’ generation and the actual parents of the group members, that they should take care of their children rather than spend their time drinking and smoking hashish. Prussic has been noted in both academic and popular writing as an important group in giving these tabooed themes a voice in popular music (Langgård 2011: 163; Ullerup 2006). Some of the first bands that attempted to do this in the early 1980s, like Inuit and Simik (The Plug), had their songs banned from national radio (Interview with Steffen Lynge, October 2010).

Today, practically all rap music produced in Greenland features Greenlandic lyrics, but while both Nuuk Posse and Prussic gained considerable national popularity, broad interest in rap music has declined in recent years and the genre is now primarily found in a large number of home recordings made by disadvantaged and marginalized youth and shared through computer and cell phone technology.

Fig 15: The official music video for the track ”Qitik” (’Dance’) by Nuuk Posse (1992).