Ellen Radka Toneff (25 June 1952 – 21 October 1982) was a Norwegian jazz singer, daughter of the Bulgarian folk singer, pilot and radio technician Toni Toneff,[1] she was born in Oslo and grew up in Lambertseter and Kolbotn.[2] She is still considered one of Norway's most outstanding jazz singers.[3]

Contents Edit


  • 1 Career
  • 2 Honors
  • 3 Discography
    • 3.1 Solo Albums
    • 3.2 Collaborative works
  • 4 References
  • 5 External links

Career[edit] Edit

Toneff holds a very special position in the Norwegian jazz history. With her moderate, but intense expression and her discerning musicianship, she made a deep impression on many people. Her highly personal and original qualities, where she combined influences from her father's musical heritage in Bulgaria, with a range of influences from, among other jazz and rock, led her to become a beacon for singers both in Norway and internationally.[2]

She studied music at Oslo Musikkonservatorium (1971–75), combined with playing in the jazz rock band «Unis». She also had her own Radka Toneff Quintet (1975–80), with changing lineup.[1] including musicians like Arild Andersen, Jon Balke, Jon Eberson and Jon Christensen, among others.[4] From 1979 she cooperated with Steve Dobrogosz.[1] In 1980 she participated in the Norwegian national final of the Eurovision Song Contest with the song Parken by Ole Paus.[2]

Toneff was awarded the Spellemannsprisen 1977 in the category best vocal for the album Winter Poem, and she posthumously received the Norwegian Jazz Association's Buddypris in 1982.[4] The Radka Toneff Memorial Award is based on afund created with royalties from the albums Fairytales and Live in Hamburg.[4]

She lived with bassist Arild Andersen for some years, though she was involved with jazz drummer Audun Kleive at the time of her death.[5] She committed suicide.[6] A biography of Toneff was published in 2008.[5]

Toneff had roots in Bulgaria, she grew up on Lambertseter and Kolbotn in Oslo, and left deep traces in Norwegian jazz. In a poll of Norwegian musicians conducted by the newspaper Morgenbladet in November 2011, her 1982 album Fairytaleswas voted the best Norwegian album.[7] Her life flame burned short and intense, she left the world by her own hand at a young age, and was found dead in the woods of Bygdøy, with an overdose of sleeping pills in her blood, the autumn of 1982.[8]

Honors[edit] Edit

  • Spellemannsprisen 1977 in the class Best vocal for the album Winter Poem
  • Buddyprisen 1982 posthumously

Discography[edit] Edit

Solo Albums[edit] Edit

  • 1977: Winter Poem – with the Radka Toneff Quintet
  • 1979: It Don't Come Easy – with the Radka Toneff Quintet
  • 1982: Fairytales – with Steve Dobrogosz
  • 1992: Live in Hamburg – with Steve Dobrogosz, Arild Andersen, and Alex Riel (recorded in 1981)
  • 2008: Butterfly

Collaborative works[edit] Edit

  • 1971: Svartkatten, Nationaltheatret
  • 1971: Slutt opp, kamerat, «Fronteatret»/«Visegruppa PS»
  • 1975: Lise Madsen, Moses og de andre, with Ole Paus
  • 1978: Leve Patagonia, with Ketil Bjørnstad

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