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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 greatest jazz singers.[3]

Radka Toneff
Radka Toneff.jpg
Radka Toneff live 1982 in Bergen.
Background information
Birth nameEllen Radka Toneff
Born(1952-06-25)25 June 1952
Oslo, Norway
Died21 October 1982(1982-10-21) (aged 30)
Occupation(s)Musician, composer



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 others, 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 a fund 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] 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 Fairytales was voted the best Norwegian album of all time.[6] Toneff was found dead in the woods of Bygdøy outside Oslo on 21 October 1982. She had committed suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills.[7]



Solo albumsEdit

  • 1977: Winter Poem (Zarepta Records) – with the Radka Toneff Quintet
  • 1979: It Don't Come Easy (Zarepta Records) – with the Radka Toneff Quintet
  • 1982: Fairytales (Odin Records) – with Steve Dobrogosz
  • 1992: Live in Hamburg (Odin Records) – with Steve Dobrogosz, Arild Andersen, and Alex Riel (recorded in 1981)
  • 2003: Some Time Ago - A Collection Of Her Finest Moments (EmArcy Records)
  • 2008: Set It Free - Et Portrett Av Radka Toneff (KRF Records)
  • 2008: Butterfly (Curling Legs)

Collaborative worksEdit


  1. ^ a b c Johansen, Per Kristian (30 July 2003). "Radka Toneff 1952-1982". Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (in Norwegian). Retrieved 2008-09-08.
  2. ^ a b c Halvorsen, Tore. "Radka Toneff". Norsk Biografisk Leksikon (in Norwegian). Kunnskapsforlaget. Retrieved 2012-11-14.
  3. ^ Johansen, Carl Kristian (1 September 2008). "Ny biografi om Radka Toneff i butikkene i dag". Ballade (in Norwegian). Retrieved 2008-09-08.
  4. ^ a b c "Radka Toneff Biography" (in Norwegian). Norwegian Jazz Archives (1994). Retrieved 2008-09-08.
  5. ^ a b Breen, Marta (2008). Radka Toneff. Hennes korte liv og store stemme. Oslo: Kagge Forlag. ISBN 978-82-489-0755-8.
  6. ^ Breen, Marta (2008-08-27). "Norsk jazz' store ikon" (in Norwegian). Dagbladet. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
  7. ^ Breen, Marta (2008-08-31). "Distansert blikk: Nyansert portrett, mangler en klo" (in Norwegian). Dagbladet. Retrieved 2013-10-14.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Knut Riisnæs
Recipient of the Buddyprisen
Succeeded by
Terje Bjørklund, Knut Kristiansen & Espen Rud
Preceded by
Knut Riisnæs & Jon Christensen
Recipient of the Jazz Spellemannprisen
Succeeded by
Egil Kapstad Trio