12 Banned Songs From 12 Countries Debut On Unsongs

Very rarely do we get surprised by music news, or PR emails pitching the virtues of so-and-so’s new album. Today was different.

Very rarely do we get surprised by music news, or PR emails pitching the virtues of so-and-so’s new album. Today was different. Today we discovered Pål Moddi Knutsen and we couldn’t wait to share his latest incredible album with you. The Glam Adelaide office has been streaming it all day.

He’s the Norwegian troubadour celebrated by the likes of The Guardian, The Sunday Times, USA Today and BBC World Service, uncovering forbidden songs spanning continents and centuries. Today, Pål Moddi Knutsen delivers a message that transcends melody with the release of new album ‘Unsongs’ – out now via Propeller Recordings / Caroline Australia.

“I went into this project as a listener rather than a musician,” explains 29-year-old Pål Moddi Knutsen. “Everywhere I turned I would find music that was not only sharp and powerful, but also beautiful in one way or another. I think that is what scares the authorities. We live in times when authority – religious, as well as political – depends on fear and alienation. These songs come from the opposite direction: they grapple with delicate subjects in a beautiful way. They sneak into people’s minds in ways that cannot be controlled by governments, priests or others. Making ‘Unsongs’ has restored my faith in the power that a song can have in changing society, for better or worse. They have certainly changed me.”


‘Unsongs’ includes a collection of 12 songs that have, at one stage or another, been banned or suppressed, with the attempts to silence them as mild as an airplay ban and as brutal as a murder. It features Moddi’s rework of Pussy Riot’s ‘Punk Prayer’ – that had the Russian feminist collective trialled and imprisoned in 2012 – and Kate Bush’s ‘Army Dreamers’, which was removed from BBC playlists during the Gulf War in 1991. Bush’s blacklisted classic returns to British airwaves more than two decades later, with Moddi’s version hailed by BBC Radio 6 (Tom Robinson, Cerys Matthews), BBC Radio 2 (Dermot O’Leary) and BBC World Service, with a featured performance on BBC Breakfast tomorrow morning.

The release is accompanied by UNSONGS.COM – an online collaboration between Moddi and photographer Jørgen Nordby, supported by Norwegian Arts Council and Fritt Ord – that features seven short documentary videos providing further insight to the ‘forbidden stories’ that feature on the album. The first video of the series details the story behind current single ‘A Matter Of Habit’, and features former Israeli soldier Yehuda Shaul of veteran combatants organisation Breaking The Silence.

Pål Moddi Knutsen, a 29-year-old from northern Norway, was an activist before he was a songwriter – most notably, rejecting a €100,000 grant from Norwegian oil company Statoil on environmental grounds (2010) and cancelling a concert in Tel Aviv in protest of the Israeli occupation of Palestine (2014). With three acclaimed LPs in his stride (including Norwegian Grammy Award-winning ‘Kæm va du?’) and tours spanning the globe, Moddi’s impetus has never been clearer: “The most important thing about ‘Unsongs’ is not the songs themselves, but the stories they contain. I have chosen twelve stories that I believe deserve to be heard.”


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