Oslo World Music Festival brings global stars to the intimate venues of our small city. During the 6 day festival, over 300 artists will perform at 18 venues across Oslo. It’s a festival that offers much more than just music, but an opportunity to be part of a social movement.

Each year the Oslo World Music Festival is based on a theme. This year’s theme is Forbidden Songs, which is interwoven into all events–revolving around questions of censorship and human rights issues. Many of the artists that perform at the festival come from countries with unstable political and social situation which influence their music. Festival director, Alexandra Archetti Stølen explains,  “No matter if they are against or if they are for the situations in their home countries, somehow it is part of their life.”

Take a look at the festivities at last year’s Oslo World Music Festival:

Collectively the team behind Oslo World Music Festival believes that in Norway we need to raise these kinds of issues through the whole world. Alexandra Archetti Stølennotes that, “We [in Norway] are in a world class in writing about our own musicians, our own artists, our own writers. I think there is still a long way to go in talking much more about the global cultural scene and what’s happening outside of our borders and what artists outside of Norway really care about.”

Who’s the festival for?

“The Oslo World Music Festival is really a festival with quite a variety of audience because we have so many different types of genres”, explains Alexandra Archetti Stølen. The main audience is 25-45 years old, but crowds differ depending on the genre. During the weekends there’s usually a younger crowd while some audiences have only 60-70 age group.

Children’s World Festival (Barnas Verdens Dager)-Free entrance

The Oslo World Festival isn’t just for adults. It hosts a large children’s festival which is celebrating its 17th year. It’s a free festival based on workshops and activities for children 0-10 and the entire family. In years prior, there have been 5,000 visitors in the two days during the festival.

When: 5 and 6 November; 11:00-17:00

Where: Grønland Kulturstasjon/Asylet


“What I think is quite unique is that we bring world stars, really big stars from outside of Europe and the States to the small city of Oslo and the small venues. So you can really have a look at the major names in really small intimate settings.” That would never happen in big cosmopolitan cities of Europe. The Oslo World Music Festival team does its best to design the program so concerts and events that might be of the same interest for the audience don’t compete.

Must see concerts

Emel Mathlouthi & KORKtickets

Emel Mathlouthi, of Tunisia, captures the voices of youth and those oppressed in political upheaval. Last year, she performed at The Nobel Peace Prize concert and will be the star of the opening concert of this year’s Oslo World Music Festival. It will be the first time The Norwegian Radio Orchestra plays alongside a North African Composer. Alexandra Archetti Stølen is very excited, “I think that’s going to be quite a special concert.”

When: 1 November; doors open 19:00; concert 19:30

Where: Folketeateret

Mashrou’ Leilatickets

This five-member indie rock band singing about modern day struggles hails from Lebanon. Mashrou’ Leila is perhaps the most famous, yet most controversial band of the Middle East with lyrics about sexuality and politics. It will be their first time in Norway.  

When: 4 November; doors open 20:00; concert 21:00

Where: Sentrum Scene


One of the concert director’s personal favorite bands formed in St. Petersburg and was inspired by the word oligarchy, which means a rule by the rich. Oligarchy is what occurred in the 1990’s when the Soviet Union’s institutions were bought and privatized by businessmen. The music is an expression of the intense struggles of the society as a result of the reorganization of power. This rap music will leave you surprisingly refreshed and clear of mind.  Den Sorte Skole will also be performing during this double concert, which means two concerts for the price of one!

When: 4 November; doors open 21:00; concert 22:00

Where: Blå


The seminar program this year is quite extensive. Below are two seminars that the festival director is most excited about:

Forbidden Songs–Free entrance

During this seminar, several speakers will talk about the festival theme, Forbidden Songs, from various angles. The seminar will explore what the theme really means beyond having songs forbidden or censored. It’s also about artists who use controversial words in their lyrics or have worked against persecution of other artists.

When: 2 November; 17:00

Where: Nobel Peace Center

Censorship and Empowerment–Free entrance

The challenges of being a woman in the music industry especially in non-western countries will be discussed. The focus will be on empowerment of women in music, not women in music as victims.

When: 3 November; 17:30-19:00

Where: Sentralen

Planning to eat before a concert?

You’re in luck! Most venues except for Cosmopolite are 10-15 minutes walking distance from the center of town, which is just another reason to the love Oslo! The proximity allows you to attend lots of different events in one evening. Alexandra Archetti Stølen highly recommends eating at Sentralen before attending a concert. She says, “The food is really good here. It’s a mix of Norwegian cooking and continental flavors and almost everything is local with a low carbon footprint”.

What to Bring:

The festival director advises attendees to bring good vibes and lots of energy. Of course, it’s fun to go to concerts until 3am every night, but to really enjoy concerts you need to be well rested! Remember this is an autumn festival so wear warm layers. You’ll be walking from venue to venue and will really need to delayer.

Listen to songs performed at Oslo World Music Festival on Spotify. Osloworld.no

Text: Lauren Guido / Photos&Videos: courtesy of Oslo World Music Festival. Front photo: Salif Keita by Thomas Chene.