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People around Silje

in her musical carreer

 

Bjørn Sandnes

The band got a boost when we started to play with Silje, and she and the band soon got a dedicated fan crowd.

 

Bjørn Sandnes initiated the band HamJam in which Silje participated. As far as we know this was the first band she was in. Bjørn was so kind to give us an insight in this band and Silje's role in it!

 

"First about the name of the band, HamJam: It is a word play referring to the name of the local football club Hamarkameratene (now playing in the Norwegian Premier League). The short name of the club, which most people use, is Hamkam. Replacing the "K" with a "J", the name indicated the geographic origin of the band (Hamar), and also gave a musical reference (as in Jam Session).
HamJam was formed early 1982 on my initiative. I moved to Hamar in 1981 after I finished my journalist education. I have played in bands since I was 15 years old (I'm born in 1955), and from 1973 to 1975 I played in a band named Skonrock in Steinkjer. This band became very famous and popular in the middle part of Norway, and gained also some national reputation after winning the most prestigious band competition in Norway at that time, Trønderrock, in 1975. This band had a 3 piece horn section, and I wrote most of the arrangements for that band. In the early seventies I listened a lot to bands like Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago. These bands were a great inspiration for our band, but we also wrote more and more of our music ourselves. I totally fell in love of the sound of bands with horn sections, and writing and arranging for that kind of bands, became a passion!

So in 1982, after playing in small bands for some years, I wanted to form a band with a horn section again, and that band was HamJam. I didn't know too many musicians in Hamar at that time, so I was helped by a friend of mine that put me in contact with the trumpet player Jan, and together we formed this original line-up:

Jan Kola, trumpet and flügelhorn
Kjell Arne Engen, tenor and alto saxes
Tom Larson, trombone
Bjørn Sandnes, guitar
Erland Dalen, keyboards
Ole Jacob Håkonsen, bass guitar
Dag Kristoffersen, drums (replaced in September 1982 by Lage Thune Børresen)
Silje Nergaard, vocals (joined the band in September 1982)

We also had a couple of substitutes that played with us a few times. These were:

- The now world famous classical trumpet player Ole Edvard Antonsen. He played a lot of jazz at that time, a fantastic improviser!!!
- Kåre Kolve, saxes. He later became well knowned in the Norwegian and European jazz society. For 4 years he played with the famous Icelandic funk/fusion band Mezzoforte. He now plays a.o. in the Norwegian band Lava, who used to be Randy Crawford's European tour band. Kåre is also a fantastic soloist!!

We started to rehearse mostly instrumental music, we didn't have a lead singer from the start. But our keyboard player, Erland, sometimes sang a few songs. We had very few gigs in the spring 1982 mostly at student parties at the teacher's college in Hamar (two of the band, Erland and Ole Jacob, were students there). The summer 1982, our drummer quit the band, and we got in a new, young and promising drummer from Hamar, Lage Thune Børresen (now his name is Lage Thune Myrberget). And together with Lage, we also got a singer: Silje Nergaard!! She was 16 years old, and had just started her first year at the Gymnas (high school). It was Jan who suggested we should try Silje. He was a music teacher at secondary school, and had Silje in one of his music classes. He said that he had never heard anything like her, so we invited Silje to a rehearsel, and we were totally amazed! Already 16 years old, she performed in a very mature way, and she showed an enormous potential. We imediately included her in the band!!

The main musical profile of the band was somewhere between pop/rock and jazz. We mostly played cover songs, but rearranged to our purpose. In the beginning, I wrote almost all of the arrangements. But after some time, the trumpet player started to write more and more arrangements. We also started to write original music, and when we were on top of our career, I would say that approx. 15-20% of our repertoir were original compositions, included 3-4 of Silje's songs. We played songs made by Chick Corea, Randy Crawford, The Manhattan Transfer and many other artists playing jazz, fusion or jazz inspired pop music. The band got a boost when we started to play with Silje, and she and the band soon got a dedicated fan crowd. It is correct to say that HamJam's main attraction was Silje! We played all the main jazz scenes in Oslo at the time: Club 7 (till the club went bancrupt), Sardines (till that club also went bancrupt in the same premacies as Club 7, haha!), and Hot House were some of the most important scenes in Oslo. We also played at quite a few jazz clubs in different towns in the south-eastern part of Norway. Since our music was very rythmic, we were sometimes asked to play at parties as a dance band. Silje wasn't too happy with that kind of gigs, she most of all wanted to sing for a listening audience, not for a dancing one.... It was also quite hard work, since we had to play 3 or even 4 sets! In average we did som 3-6 gigs a month, so we were quite busy.....
The biggest crowd we ever played for, and maybe the peak of HamJam's career, were playing at the Kalvøya Festival outside Oslo in 1983 for approx 20 000 people. We were a poster name together with U2, Joe Cocker and many other more or less world famous stars! There were two scenes at the festival, the hot shots played the A scene, we, of course, played the B scene..... Our gig was just after U2 and just before Joe Cocker! It was a great experience, and we got very good response from the crowd.

HamJam (Bjørn Sandnes sitting at the bench at the right), with Silje in the back. The picture was taken in Hamar in August 1983,
before their performance at
Kalvøya Festival, and it was used in an article made by the photographer for the local newspaper in Hamar.
Picture: Tor Henning Støldal (published here by courtesy of the photographer). See for this and other pictures at Støldal Print.



Silje's role in the band from the beginning was to be the lead singer. She was a little shy in the beginning since the others in the band were 10 years older then her (except Lage who was two years older). The profile of her repertoir in he beginning was strongly influenced by me and the rest of the band (and especially Jan the trumpet player), because we did most of the arranging. But after some time, when she gained more live experience and found out more about what she was really good at, she took more control over the situation, and got more and more influence over what songs she would sing in the band. She also contributed with some songs that she wrote herself. One of these songs, "One of these mornings", was on her first single released in 1984. This recording was actually a price Silje won in 1983, after winning the contest "Hedmarksvokalist 1983". The contest got some harsh critics in the newspapers afterwards, because everybody in the contest had to sing with the house band, which of course was HamJam ..... Those who didn't win, meant that Silje had a big advantage singing the contest with her regular band. But Silje was already then in her own league, and would have beated all the others no matter what band she had to sing with.....

Silje, Lage and the trombone player Tom left the band early fall 1984. We got in Morten Nyhus on drums and Vigdis Fossum as the lead singer, and we changed our musical profile totally in the direction of soul and rock'n roll. The band more or less stopped playing in 1985, but had the last gig in 1986."

Bjørn Sandnes, April 2006.