Review: KEiiNO builds bridges to the dancefloor in the debut

From, translated by Karina Brandt / KEiiNO Fans Official

Last year’s MGP-winners delivers a dance-friendly debut with the manifold in focus.

Photo: Sebastian Scheiner / TT NYHETSBYRÅN. Keiino (Tom Hugo Hermansen, Alexandra Rotan and Fred Buljo) take the step from MGP-winners to ambassadors for dance-friendly worldmucis on their debut album. Here from ESC last year.


KEiiNO conquered the collective mind when they won last year’s MGP with “Spirit in the sky”. 

They ended on a sixth place in Eurovision (with the most public votes) and the song became a hit both in Norway and abroad. It topped the VG-lista, was nominated the Spellman, and had millions of streams.

Something with the mix of joik and dance music apparently hit a nerve. Now the trio follows up with their debut album, where the formula of success is re-created across several tracks.

Joik on the dancefloor

The group, consisting of rapper and joiked Fred Buljo, singer Alexandra Rotan, and Tom Hugo Hermansen, has already a clear profile. All songs are, with small variations, kept in the somewhat same style as the debut song. Here electronic pop and Sámi culture in a great union.

Artists like Mari Boine and Isák have done a lot in order to spread the joik to the world. Here it really is drawn to the common dancefloor, with added modern bits of tropical house and R & B. Several of the songs could easily have rumbled out of the graduation waggons.

Like with so many others in electropop, you can hear the heritage from Avicii. The melody lines are hyperactively catchy, the choruses large and sing-along friendly. Not least do the rhythms make one’s legs move.

I have to admit that this is not necessarily my favorite genre, but after having accompanied my home office with various ambient-classics the past weeks, I perceive KEiiNO’s drive like a breath of fresh air. This is a collection of catchy songs, even though not everything manifests. It helps that the album is well produced.

Photo: Raf Gaweda, Keiino is Tom Hugo
Hermansen (f.v.), Alexandra Rotan and Fred Buljo.

KEiiNO was FN-ambassador for indigenous languages last year. It has clearly set its mark on the production. Guest artists from all the corners of the world, like the rapper Drezus and the throat singer Charlotte Quamainq, contributes to creating variation. 

On “Roar Like A Lion” the trio has a visit from the band Te Hau Tawhiti, which takes the rhythms to new heights. Their music is inspired by haka, the war-dance of the Maories (thank you, Google) and becomes a refreshing ingredient in KEiiNO’s universe. Distinguished is also the visit from Electric Fields, an aboriginal duo that operates with a similar mix of genres.

The collaboration brings out new nuances in the music, but KEiiNO is ofcourse also capable without guests. The album ends with “Bed with the wolf” one of the most catchy tracks. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but I found myself humming it through the weekend.

Photo: KEiiNO/Hugoworld A/S. OKTA

Scores on drive

The simple is often the best, especially in dance music. Although of the the music can feel somewhat formula-based when a lot of it is tailored to the same pattern. On the other hand, the music always keeps the feeling of being on the way somewhere. 

OKTA clocks in, in a little over half an hour. The feeling of recurrence is not too insistent, even though I wish the trio would play more with their expression when they have so much inspiration to harvest from.

Most importantly is that this is a successful project where manifold, cultural exchanging and the magic of music is central. KEiiNO draws unknown expression into the light of mainstream and acts as a bridge-builder. This is how they take the step from being MGP-winners to become ambassadors for dance-friendly world music.