Category: AmCham News
“Little Steven” to music fans and “Silvio” to Sopranos fans, Steven Van Zandt has helped the small state of New Jersey in the USA gain a cultural niche that is truly universal. As a key member of Bruce Springsteens’ E Street band since the 1970s, he has been an innovator in creating the “Jersey Shore Sound”; and later as part of the Sopranos New Jersey “family”, his “Silvio” character has gained and maintained a place in the hearts of people everywhere.
New York meets Norway
These days Van Zandt is busy working to create another cultural classic, finding himself in the high mountains of Norway filming a television program that may forever associate his name with the Olympic town of Lillehammer. Of course, Lillehammer has made quite a name for itself as well within the sports as host to the XVII Winter Games and applicant for the 2016 Youth Olympic Games – but this new television program may just expand those horizons far beyond sports and tourism and into the realm of cultural understanding.
The name of the upcoming TV series is “Lilyhammer”, and the premise is simple, creative, and with everything that happens in the world these days – undeniably possible. Van Zandt’s character is a hard core New Yorker, loathing anything that resembles the suburbs or worse yet, pure nature and the countryside. He is a big man in organized crime in the city, and sure enough runs into big trouble with the law. Faced with the choice of going to jail for a long time or telling his story and “naming names” – Van Zandt’s character decides to “sing like a canary”.
Put into a “witness protection program” Van Zandt’s character is sent far away from New York City to the small mountain town of Lillehammer, where he soon discovers that life there is quite different than in the big city. The program is funny at times, thought provoking, an insight into not only the cultural differences that separate people and countries – but also about the similarities that bind us together.
The “New Jersey Effect”
The word Innovation is an elusive concept, but if we use associated words such as change, variation, transformation, upheaval and alternation – it just may be that “Lilyhammer” may well qualify as an innovative program. Juxtaposing native Norwegians and their culture and traditions with the “big world” of the Van Zandt New York City character, the result shows both the obvious as well as the subtle ironies of cultural differences. Often humorous, sometimes serious, “Lilyhammer” takes a close-up view of Norwegians in an entertaining way that has high ambitions.
Says Van Zandt, “The more specific, the more idiosyncratic the message, in an odd way, the more global that message becomes. It happened twice in my lifetime in New Jersey, once with Bruce (Springsteen) and once with the Sopranos. In both cases there was wide concern – the first with the record industry – and the second within the entertainment industry – that it would be too “New Jersey” – but we found that the more New Jersey we made it, the more popular it became”.
Lightning Strikes Again?
Van Zandt believes that “lightning may just strike again”, and the “New Jersey Effect” that he experienced with Bruce Springsteen and later with the Sopranos may just segue into the “Norwegian Effect” this time around.
Source: Norway Communicates
Published: April 5, 2011