Courtesy of akam1k3
A new song by the Norwegian rap duo Karpe has skyrocketed on the music charts.
The song “PAF.no,” one of the biggest hits in Norway this year, features a chorus in Arabic that has everyone singing along — and also discussing what it means to be Norwegian.
“We had no idea this song was going to go ... go No. 1,” said Magdi Omar Ytreeide Abdelmaguid, one half of the duo.
The other half of the hip-hop duo, Chirag Patel, said he was skeptical of their new album’s potential for success on the charts, in part because it incorporates multiple languages, including Norwegian, Arabic, Gujarati and English.
Patel's family originally hails from India while Abdelmaguid's father is Egyptian and his mother is Norwegian. The duo's experience of growing up in immigrant households in Norway in the 1990s has inspired much of their music and artistry.
The chorus is derived from a popular Tunisian folk song called “Sidi Mansour.”
Abdelmaguid said that he and Patel were looking to blend a “Tunisian wedding vibe” with a “Norwegian club vibe.”
“For us,” Abdelmaguid said, “this Tunisian folk song was a song we’ve heard in, like, so many happy immigrant moments — like Arabic weddings — and we heard this song so much when we were kids.”
Oslo-based musicologist Kjell Andreas Oddekalv said that even if you don’t understand the cultural significance of the tune, the song is “a banger” with a strong hook that has people humming it for days.
“PAF.no” is one of six songs off the duo’s ambitious concept album called “Omar Sheriff,” that was produced alongside a sci-fi film streaming online. The film stars both Abdelmaguid and Patel as alter-egos, Omar and Sheriff.
“PAF.no” has remained in the country’s top-40 since hitting No. 1 over six months ago. And while the track was a hit-single, the album itself broke streaming records in Norway.
This isn’t the first time Karpe has topped the charts in their two decades of performing, but the duo sees this latest success as indicative of how Norway has changed.
“Norway was a very different country 20 years ago compared to now,” Patel said.
In 2022, 15% of Norway’s more than 5.4 million people were foreign born, according to Statista. Another 9% were born to at least one foreign-born parent.
When Patel was growing up, there was no one who looked like them on TV or in Parliament, he said.
“The stuff we rap about are topics that are related to us being the only ones that had a different religion or color in the classroom,” Patel said.
“But it was very different doing it now then when we did it 10 years ago,” Abdelmaguid added.
Courtesy of akam1k3
A decade ago, in July 2011, a far-right extremist bombed Norway’s government headquarters. And then went on a shooting spree at a summer camp. In total, 77 people died.
The killer’s manifesto, published hours before the attacks, demanded that Muslims in Europe “assimilate 100%” or be deported. Many saw the attacks as a turning point on Norway's national conversation about immigration and what it means to be Norwegian.
A week after those attacks, the rap duo Karpe performed at a memorial concert for the victims, hosted at one of Oslo’s main cathedrals.
One song they played, written by Abdelmaguid a few years prior, spread a message about tolerance and focused on the experience of being a Muslim youth.
Marta Bivand Erdal of the Peace Research Institute Oslo said that in the aftermath of the 2011 terror attacks, Norwegians opened up about immigration, national identity and belonging.
“There’s been an increase in awareness that we need to tackle these issues properly and we need to have open discussions and dialogue and listen to each other’s experiences, worries and concerns,” she said.
Musicologist Oddekalv said Karpe has played an important role in those discussions.
“They just have so much full-on mainstream cultural impact. Their songs have become important in the political debates of the mainstream.”
Karpe members said they want to use that influence to bring about some change, too.
The song’s name, “PAF.no,” is also the website address for the Patel and Abdelmaguid Foundation.
Founded in 2020, the foundation has donated the master rights and revenue from all six of Karpe’s previous studio albums, EPs and singles to charities and projects assisting immigrants and refugees. So far, they have earned about $200,000.
The charity also gives them the chance to be the kind of role models they sought when they were growing up.
“We have the opportunity to inspire — not to make music for money — but to make a difference,” Abdelmaguid said.
Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.