Photo credit: NRK
They won MGP thanks to the support of the televote and now Gåte will be sending a song in Norwegian to Eurovision for the first time since 2006! Read on to learn more about the band, their career so far and their journey to Eurovision.
Who Are Gåte?
Gåte (which translates to ‘riddle’ in English) are from Trøndelag, which is located in the central part of Norway. The band was originally put together in 2000 by Sveinung Sundli (who left the band in August 2023 to focus more on his personal life, including his son’s own music career) and his younger sister Gunnhild Sundli, who is the band’s vocalist. Currently joining her in the line-up are Magnus Børmark (on guitar and keyboards), Jon Even Schärer (drums), Mats Paulsen (bass) and John Sternesen (who plays traditional Norwegian instruments for the band, including the nyckelharpa, moraharpa, and hurdy-gurdy). They have been well-known throughout their career for rearranging traditional Norwegian folk tunes and poems and blending this with metal and electronica.
In 2000, the band released their self-titled debut EP and interestingly released a follow-up EP with the same name in 2002. Their second effort placed second in the Norwegian record charts. In this same year, they released their debut album ‘Jygri’ which earned them a Spellemann award for Best New Artists, as well as the number one spot in the Norwegian album charts. Their 2003 follow-up EP ‘Statt opp (Maggeduliadei)’ and 2004 second album ‘Iselilja’ were also very successful, achieving fourth and third in the charts respectively. However, Gåte announced a hiatus in 2005, in part so that Gunnhild could pursue other artistic endeavours. They released a live album in 2006 and played a few concerts in 2009 and 2010. Gunnhild participated in a number of theatrical productions during the band’s hiatus and also released her solo album ‘Tankerop’ in 2013.
However, to the delight of fans everywhere, Gåte announced their reunion in 2017 after twelve years apart. Since then, they have released two more albums (‘Svevn’ in 2018 and ‘Nord’ in 2021) and two more EPs (‘Til Nord’ in 2021 and ‘Vandrar’ in 2023). Their latest EP features the full-length version of ‘Ulveham’ which is almost six minutes long.
‘Ulveham’ and the Road to Eurovision
On 5th January, it was announced that Gåte would be one of the eighteen artists taking part in Norwegian national final Melodi Grand Prix. They performed in the second heat on 20th January and easily qualified for a spot in the grand final. However, the band were put in a tough spot when on 28th January, with less than a week until the final, NRK announced that the lyrics to ‘Ulveham’ had to be changed due to certain verses being identical to the original manuscript of the Norwegian medieval ballad ‘Møya i ulveham’ (‘The Maid in Wolf Skin’). It is well-known that Gåte take much of their lyrical content from old Norwegian texts. However, EBU rules state that all Eurovision entries must be entirely original so there was the distinct possibility that, should ‘Ulveham’ win MGP, it would not be allowed to compete. However, the band and other songwriters were able to amend the lyrics while still keeping the narrative, meaning and themes the same.
So what is the song about? Well, in ‘Møya i ulveham’ a maiden tells the story of how her mother died in childbirth, leaving her father to marry someone new. The maiden’s stepmother is jealous of the girl and her popularity in the community. The stepmother inflicts on her a series of curses gradually increasing in severity. First she turns her into a needle, then a knife and then a sword. However, this does not diminish the popularity of the girl and the community continue to use and appreciate her through all of her transformations. This makes her stepmother (who is by now pregnant with her son) so angry that she turns the maiden into a wolf. However, this is a big mistake as the maiden finally gets her revenge on her stepmother, mauling her and drinking her blood. To break the curse inflicted on her, she also drinks the blood of her stepmother’s unborn child.
While the lyrics of ‘Ulveham’ are taken from an old text, its central themes are something we can all relate to. In an interview with ESC Bubble, the band explained that on a deeper level the song is about:
…liberation and power balance. Making your own choices, not being controlled by anyone else. Standing firmly in yourself without others dictating what you should do. We believe this is an important and timeless message.Gåte, ESC Bubble
On the night of the final, their lyrics successfully altered, Gåte performed eighth in the running order. They placed second with juries, receiving 10 points from nearly all international jurors with the exception of the United Kingdom (who gave them four points) and Czechia (who gave them twelve points) while 2019 Eurovision entrants Keiino won the jury vote. However, Gåte easily dominated the televote which has 60% of the sway in who represents Norway at Eurovision. They narrowly beat Keiino by just six points!
This marks the first time in eighteen years Norway have sent a song in Norwegian to Eurovision, with the last entry being ‘Avendansen’ by Christine Guldbrandsen in 2006, which placed fourteenth in the final. Speaking of their decision to use their native language in their interview with ESC Bubble, the band said:
For us, it has always been natural to sing in Norwegian, Old Norse, and Nynorsk. We believe it is important to use our mother tongue, also because people in Europe think it’s sophisticated with that kind of vocal “sound” blended with folklore.Gåte, ESC Bubble
How Will Gåte Fare in Malmö?
Gåte will perform in the second half of the second semi-final on Thursday 9th May. In terms of their Nordic neighbours, only Denmark can vote for them in this semi which could be a cause for concern since the band will have to rely on televote to qualify. However, many international fans have been impressed by the band’s progressive folk metal sound and see Gåte’s presence in the competition as a refreshing change of pace for Norway, particularly their decision to send a song in Norwegian. It’s true we’re unlikely to see anything else like ‘Ulveham’ in its semi-final so could this bode well for Gåte?
Ultimately we won’t know how Gåte will fare until the night but we are certainly wishing them the best of luck this May!
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