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Portrait: Nanook (GRL)

In 2008, the brothers Christian and Frederik Elsner, who have Inuit and Danish ancestors, founded their band Nanook in Greenland. In Inuit mythology, Nanook is the most giant polar bear of all, a kind of polar bear deity. The band chose Nanook as their name to draw attention to the fate of polar bears, which may become extinct in the coming decades due to the drastic melting of the ice and increased extraction of natural gas and oil in the Arctic. The polar bear as a motif also runs through the artwork of the to-date four albums by Nanook.

In their homeland, they have long been superstars. Thanks to their catchy sound between rock, pop and folk, which is reminiscent of Radiohead, Coldplay or Ásgeir, they are also known beyond the borders of Greenland, even though they deliberately sing their lyrics exclusively in Greenlandic.

In 2014, the band finally also released a song titled "Nanook," and in 2016, a touching video to accompany this song. Its intro is reminiscent of a radio play: Subtle electronic sounds and the growl of a polar bear mix into the rustling of the icy wind, until finally elegiac violin and piano sounds kick in and transition into driving, melodic indie guitar pop rock. In the video, the band plays on a rock in front of a spur of the ice sheet, reminiscent of a giant polar bear paw. While Frederik Elsner repeatedly invokes the beauty of the ice and the power of the polar bear in just a few sentences and sings about how both will soon disappear, in the video, a young Inuk walking across the ice sheet and a polar bear on the frozen water are cut in parallel and finally even symbolically short-circuited with each other when the man finds a white mask in a crevice in the ice and holds it in front of his face. On the acoustic level, this spiritual symbiosis between man and beast is mirrored in the song's final minute, when the accelerating music drives toward its climax and Elsner's vocals fade into a plaintive, bloodcurdling scream as the polar bear collapses on the thin ice.

Rather than projecting hoped-for redemption from global natural disasters onto technology and artificial intelligence, as global pop stars like Grimes do, Nanook do what theory-pop star Donna Haraway has called "staying with the trouble:" They address how humans and nature are intertwined. As "staying with the trouble" also means, above all, that one perseveres where destruction and suffering occur, that one confronts them to find solutions, and that one is empathetic and offers assistance instead of taking refuge in escapism.

It fits well that they are invited to play at the COP 27, the


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