Why does so much good music come from Sweden and Belgium, and relatively little from Holland?
December 20, 2005 8:00 AM   Subscribe

Why does so much good music come from Sweden and Belgium, and so little from Holland?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane to Media & Arts (39 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This isn't going to help you find an answer, I apologise, but can you share some of the good music from Sweden and Belgium?
I'd be interested.
posted by NinjaPirate at 8:07 AM on December 20, 2005

dEUS are pretty cool and are from Belgium.
posted by hippyboy at 8:11 AM on December 20, 2005

Not sure what type of music you're looking for, but my favorite band After Forever is Dutch. Also, Within Temptation and Epica.

And you're right, Swedish music rules.
posted by mike9322 at 8:14 AM on December 20, 2005

I politely disagree
posted by cillit bang at 8:16 AM on December 20, 2005

Language? I know a lot of Swedish groups that sing in English that get airplay both in the States and throughout Europe. (Don't know if that's also true for Belgian groups -- do they often sing in English? Or French? Something a bit more universal than Dutch?)

In any event, when I lived in Italy, pretty much all the music was in English or Italian, with the occasional song in Spanish. My limited experience in France had most of the music in French, with occasional English; in the UK, mostly English with some French dance stuff every now and then. In the US, it's pretty much all English. So the Swedish groups singing in English just have a much wider audience base, get promoted more, etc. I would assume that would translate into a bigger music industry there, which would help all musicians, no matter which language they were singing in.
posted by occhiblu at 8:17 AM on December 20, 2005

NinjaPirate: Again, not sure what type of music you're into, but Opeth is pretty much the tops as far as Swedish metal goes. Just awesome. Evergrey is great too.

Europe is so lucky.
posted by mike9322 at 8:17 AM on December 20, 2005

Yes ABBA and Ace of Base, yes, such quality from Sweden!

Kidding, I believe you just aren't looking in the right place or maybe the Dutch just don't play the styles you like?

Why is their such a dearth of good blue grass bands in Wisconsin? (I don't really know if there is or not, not trying to argue that, thanks.)
posted by Pollomacho at 8:22 AM on December 20, 2005

Having lived in Amsterdam I can say that most Dutch music that you hear playing in stores and on the streets is just laughable.

Maybe that has corrupted peoples audio imaginations?
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:26 AM on December 20, 2005

Depends what you call good. Isn't Dutch hardcore rap and DJ-ing all the rage in Holland rather than more mainstream type artists who might have gained more international exposure? This certainly seems to be partly true in Germany, although they still produce a good few "traditional" charting bands like Tokio Hotel, Wir Sind Helden, Rammstein, Virginia Jetz! etc.

Sweden really does have a disproportionately high amount of good or successful internationally known artists from all genres. The Knife, The Cardigans, Robyn, The Hives, Hellacopters, Millencolin, Bob Hund, Clawfinger, Entombed, Wannadies, Neneh Cherry, Abba, Kent, Refused...and probably many more I can't think of. There is some great Swedish music out there.

I stuggle to think of Dutch artists. Tiesto? Weren't Golden Earring dutch? Maybe a country needs some nice hills to inspire young singers.
posted by fire&wings at 8:34 AM on December 20, 2005


Perhaps you'd care to define what qualifies as "good music", other than its national origin?
posted by GuyZero at 8:35 AM on December 20, 2005

I thought Dutch people all spoke English because they had too much of a limited market to have movies dubbed in Dutch? So singing in English wouldn't be a problem.

My theory: Calvinism. Calvinists have awful music.
posted by dagnyscott at 8:35 AM on December 20, 2005

Best answer: occhiblu - but the Dutch are generally even better English speakers than the Swedish, so that doesn't explain things.

There is good music being made in Holland, but I guess it's all about exposure and marketing. It currently seems like everyone in Finland is churning out 10 albums a week, but scenes are self-perpetuating, so at the moment, because Finnish music is 'cool', it just gets talked about more, and more exposure is given to bands on the back of other bands. It depends what you're looking for. There's quite a lot of good Dutch experimental/avant garde music out there, but it's niche appeal stuff. All it will take is one good, popular indie band to appear and we'll be rediscovering hidden gems and previously unheard-of scenes all over the country. As soon as The Ex make it onto the cover of NME (ha ha) the place will explode.
posted by nylon at 8:40 AM on December 20, 2005

I saw these guys when we played at the Melkweg and was blown away by them. Worth a shot.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:40 AM on December 20, 2005

I lived in Holland and I have to say that I was disappointed with most Dutch music. That's not to say that there isn't good Dutch music out there, just that I wasn't exposed to it. It could be that Dutch radio sucks much more than Dutch music...
posted by ob at 8:57 AM on December 20, 2005

Sorry, I should have said
I'm far more of an electronica, indie (Clinic), indie rock (Interpol) man than metal.

As far as the question goes, I've heard quite a few really good things drag themselves out of Dutch warehouses, but the only things that spring to mind about Sweden are ABBA and Whigfield and, though I have a soft spot for the big W, I can't say the music is really worth my time.
I seem to be coming from the other angle to GNFTI, but I'd really like to find out about interesting artisits in Scandinavia.
Artists who aren't death/black metallers, preferably.

posted by NinjaPirate at 9:00 AM on December 20, 2005

Yes ABBA and Ace of Base, yes, such quality from Sweden!

Well, for more discerning people, we also have Günther and Dr Bombay!

(More seriously: Yes, Kent is good.)
posted by martinrebas at 9:15 AM on December 20, 2005

to much skunk
posted by baker dave at 9:19 AM on December 20, 2005

I can name several dozen excellent jazz musicians from Holland. Offhand, I can think of very few from either Belgium or Sweden.

This is a ridiculous question. It's akin to asking, "I've met a bunch of doctors from Massachusetts, but the only person I know from Connecticut is a photographer. Why are people more interested in the arts in Connecticut?"
posted by cribcage at 9:26 AM on December 20, 2005

It's akin to asking, "I've met a bunch of doctors from Massachusetts, but the only person I know from Connecticut is a photographer. Why are people more interested in the arts in Connecticut?"

Not really. According to several web sites, Sweden is the third largest exporter of music in the world after the US and Great Britain, which is pretty surprising for a small country with 9 million people. I have no explanation.
posted by martinrebas at 9:37 AM on December 20, 2005

Scandanavia, in general, is just a hot bed of music.

Check out itsatrap.com as a great resource to all music scandanavian.
posted by punkrockrat at 9:46 AM on December 20, 2005

There is plenty of great indie rock stuff from Holland:

Bettie Serveert
Joost Visser
Bingo Trappers
The Ex

And this is just stuff I've happened upon here in the states. (Granted, half of those bands came out of De Artsen, but what can you do?)
posted by TonyRobots at 9:49 AM on December 20, 2005

can you share some of the good music from Sweden and Belgium?

From Belgium : dEUS is the obvious choice. More recently, Ghinzu killed dEUS, and Girls In Hawaii are pretty good too. K's Choice used to be alive, and made good pop tunes. Also, Sharko, Hooverphonic, Front 242, Zita Swoon, Soulwax, Ozark Henry, An Perlé, Vive La Fête, Venus...

As for answers, I'd go with the language thing (most bands above sing in English), and musical roots I guess...
posted by XiBe at 9:53 AM on December 20, 2005

I love Girls In Hawaii
posted by matteo at 9:55 AM on December 20, 2005

Best answer: All you haters know gnfti is Dutch, right?

I think it's a good question, but unanswerable. Why does one culture produce a consistently good something, while a neighboring culture does not? Or produces something very different and identifiably it's own. The 19th century French novel (including Turgenev)? The 19th century Russian novel (excluding Turgenev)? New Orleans jazz? St. Louis jazz? DC Hardcore? Philly cheesesteaks?
posted by OmieWise at 10:18 AM on December 20, 2005

My Theory: Calvinism. Calvinists have awful music.

Catholicism is the largest religion in the Netherlands. Back to the drawing board.
posted by the cuban at 10:21 AM on December 20, 2005

The bastard Dutch have the best music in the world and they are hoarding it and refusing to share with others!
posted by zaelic at 10:30 AM on December 20, 2005

Sweden seems to do pop better. But Holland has a great electro scene. Check out Legowelt and Ra-X. The latter runs Angelmaker Records, which released the fantastic POWERSLAVES: An Elektro Tribute to Iron Maiden last year. (Disclaimer: I contributed a track.)
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 11:10 AM on December 20, 2005

NinjaPirate - If you like electronica try Sweden's own "The Knife." You may have heard one of their songs acoustically murdered on that Sony advert with the dayglo bouncing balls in San Francisco.
posted by fire&wings at 11:23 AM on December 20, 2005

Netherlands has always been a centre for Trance (Armin van Buuren, Tiësto, Ferry Corsten)

(fire&wings - The Knife rocks!)

As far as Belgian music, I like (in addition to some of what has already been mentioned) The Go Find but especiallyStyrofoam.
posted by ori at 1:43 PM on December 20, 2005

This is a good thread!
Sorry for piggybacking, gnfti
posted by NinjaPirate at 1:44 PM on December 20, 2005

holland rocks
posted by 3.2.3 at 2:18 PM on December 20, 2005

That and a lot of bands from Holland aren't explicitly mentioned as such. Like, say, Solex.
posted by klangklangston at 2:27 PM on December 20, 2005

Best answer: Yeah, way to go gnfti, post a question and go offline for the next four and a half hours. Sorry about that. Hope y'all are still reading now that the thread has steadily drifted down the page.

I admit that the original question was not very specific, I probably should have mentioned that I meant English-language music. And perhaps a genre specification would have been in order: Dutch artists have had a tremendous influence on dance/techno music, and there are other niches where Dutch output has been internationally acclaimed. So, while I don't intend to limit the discussion to rock music, it's certainly what I had in mind.

Some background: as OmieWise correctly pointed out, I do live in Holland, and as a musician and music enthusiast I have always noticed that, while there's a lot of interesting stuff happening here (IMO), the part of it that sparks interest abroad seems, well, a tad anemic. We tend to look with envy at our brothers in Flanders Belgium, who are culturally very close to us (and speak the same language), where kickass bands like dEUS, K's Choice and Soulwax/2 Many DJs seem to sprout from the earth like child's play.

And then, indeed, there's Sweden, where the list is too long to even start. In all three of these countries the level of profiency in the English language is notably high, so I don't think that's part of the problem in any tangible sense.

So, thanks for all the input guys. And NinjaPirate, no problem, I always welcome new recommendations of Belgian and Swedish bands :)
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:03 PM on December 20, 2005

well, there's a population argument. combined, sweden and belgium have a population of nearly 20 million, compared to 16 million for the netherlands.

furthermore, (this doesn't really apply to sweden), belgium has 3 official languages and has a broad cultural mix.. this diversity might contribute to greater output in the arts.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 3:13 PM on December 20, 2005

I know they are OLD, but so am I! Focus, from The Netherlands, still get played in my house. Known best (in the USA, anyhow) for Hocus Pocus, the rest of their music is more jazz/fusion in style, featuring Thejis van Leer on flute.

Belgium (Flemish): A band (hopefully) about to get noticed with the release of their first studio album, try Syndon. (disclaimer: I did a spoken part for one of their new tracks. They needed an American voice). What I've heard of their studio project blows the socks off what I've heard them do in bars (why is bar music usually mixed so horribly?)
posted by Goofyy at 11:29 PM on December 20, 2005

Best answer: This does not do anything to answer the question but:

Good Belgian stuff that hasn't yet been named: Arid
Good Swedish stuff that hasn't yet been named: The Radio Dept.
Good Dutch stuff that hasn't yet been mentioned: Kraak & Smaak, Pete Philly & Perquisite
posted by Skyanth at 12:02 AM on December 21, 2005

Response by poster: NOTE: I marked my comment as "Best Answer" because it was somewhat lower down in the thread and was intended to clarify the question's premise, not because I feel it was a good answer in any way.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:09 PM on December 21, 2005

Pure speculation, but -- good musicians tend to want to be around other good musicians. In the U.S., for example, one reason there's more good music in Austin, Texas than in Houston, Texas, is that if you're a good musician in Houston, you'll probably move to Austin.

I've never been to your part of the world and can't say whether that dynamic would apply in neighboring countries vs. neighboring cities, but it seems possible that it's a factor.
posted by bac at 5:11 PM on December 21, 2005

Swedish chart success is often attributed to the "Communal Music School", where all kids are allowed and encouraged to go free of charge. It starts at age 8 or so, when everyone plays the recorder. One or two years later you are allowed to pick your own instrument and get private tuition in that once a week, plus orchestra sessions. As a result, few talents are left undiscovered and lots of kids get basic knowledge and confidence about music.

This is how it was when I went to school at least. The funding for this school has been cut down a lot since. If you don't see any new swedish bands in five or ten years, that might be why.
posted by springload at 5:25 AM on December 27, 2005 [1 favorite]

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