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CULTURE

Swedish comedy explained

In an interview this week with Dagens Nyheter, Krister Claesson - half of comedy duo Stefan & Krister - explained why Swedish folk humour isn't banal.

He explained that it’s funny when people take themselves too seriously, which means an almost endless source of material for Swedish comedians.

Stefan & Krister’s show ‘Between two brothers’ has matured in recent years. Sex and booze jokes still abound, but there’s room now as well for jokes about local government and diversity.

A number of this year’s jokes are built around Swedes’ discomfort with immigrants. Claesson gave an example of the new type of humour: “When the local government tells shopkeepers to lock up their bananas because there’s a negro around, then people can laugh.”

Claesson further explained that he wants to create for people “a possibility that, in the midst of their laughter, they’ll feel that “maybe I shouldn’t say things like that”.

Whether or not this particular sort of social activism is working or not, it seems that folk humour is still popular- eleven hundred people showed up at a Falkenberg performance of ‘Between two brothers’.

In the end, Claesson said it came down to numbers. “When eleven hundred people around you in a park laugh, you laugh too. It’s much harder to sit at home in front of the TV and laugh totally alone.”

Göteborgs-Posten reported this week that Swedes are watching more or less exactly the same television this summer as they did last summer. ‘Allsång på Skansen,’ ‘Sommartorpet,’ English-made crime dramas, and Princess Victoria’s birthday broadcast are most popular – just as they were a year ago.

A spokeswoman for Swedish Television explained that this wasn’t because Swedes are dull, or that Swedish TV is predictable: “I don’t think that this year’s TV schedule is a carbon copy of last summer’s. We continuously update the traditional programs. ‘Allsång på Skansen’ is as new as possible now that Anders Lundin has taken over.”

Which doesn’t explain why reruns such as “Diggiloo” and last year’s “Packat & klart” summer special have been so popular, but at least we’ll have the opportunity to see all the great stuff we missed when we were enjoying last year’s sun. The rainy summer hypothesis was not mentioned as a possible contender for high viewership.

However popular, ‘Allsång på Skansen’ can’t seem to avert a certain grumbling minority. In an article titled ‘Allsång only for the invited’ Aftonbladet reported on the dismay felt by 62-year-old Siv Lindberg and the others that make up the ‘Iron Gang’, the tight inner circle who give hope to those who for many years begin queueing up to 30 hours before ‘Allsång’ begins to get the good seats.

Over the years more and more of the front rows have been reserved for industry people and celebrities. In 2002 there were around 150 VIP places. The press secretary for ‘Allsång’ claims that today there are 220, but Aftonbladet counted 300.

Patrik Nordren, one of the ‘Iron Gang’, summed up the disappointment of the patient: “We line up the whole night, and then some half-celebrity glides in a half hour before the start and gets a better place.”

Swedish Television’s administration, still in the public eye after the recent tiff between writer Peter Birro and director Richard Hobert, has another open letter on their hands. After firing “Bonsai” director Filippa Pierrou without consulting the cast, Swedish Television (and the Swedish media) received an open letter condemmning their actions signed by the lead actors in the series and a good deal of the others involved. The series hasn’t been finished, and there’s talk of an actors’ boycott if Pierrou isn’t reinstated.

Finally, all the papers are talking about this year’s Pride festival in Stockholm. Dagens Nyheter promises that this year’s festival will be younger, broader, and more political than ever. This year’s highlights include the Pride Parade on Saturday and the performance afterward by Eurovision song contest winner Ruslana. Svenska Dagbladet reports that Ruslana will bring eight dancers, and that all of them will be clad in leather. We’re looking forward to it.

Pride Parade

31 July, 3 pm, Stockholm

SWEDEN AND INDIA

IndiskFika: The Indian dance group taking Sweden by storm

IndiskFika are a group of Indians in Sweden with a shared passion: dance. Two of the group's leaders tell The Local how they came to be finalists in Talang, one of Sweden's top TV talent shows.

IndiskFika: The Indian dance group taking Sweden by storm

“We’ve been very passionate about dance from childhood,” says co-founder Ranjithkumar Govindan, who shortens his name to Ranjith. “I’ve been dancing from childhood, like first grade. So once we got into our professional lives and career, I wanted to continue my passion.”

“Like Ranjith, I have been dancing since the age of three, ” adds Aradhana Varma, who joined the group in 2020. She’s been competing in and winning dance competitions back in her hometown of Mumbai ever since. 

With just a handful of members back in 2019, the group now numbers over 50, including dancers, videographers, choreographers, editors, and production crew, and they are still growing.

Listen to Aradhana Varna from IndiskFika on Sweden in Focus, The Local’s podcast. 

Click HERE to listen to Sweden in Focus on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

Govindan says started by dancing at various events in Stockholm alongside fellow Indian dance enthusiasts before the idea came to form the troupe. “Then, one fine day, me and one of my friends, Vijay [Veeramanivanna], said ‘why don’t we do a cover song?'” he remembers. 

“He’s very passionate about camera work, cinematography. I’m very passionate about dance,” Govindan says of the collaboration. 

Their initial idea was to take advantage of their location in to shoot dance routines out in Swedish nature, in the same way that Bollywood movies sometimes shoot routines against European scenes such as Swiss mountainsides or Italian plazas. 

“Indians are very famous for movies, like Bollywood, so we wanted to do a cover video of a particular song from a movie which was going to be released. Since we are living in Sweden, we have plenty of opportunities to cover good locations and nature, so that was an idea,” he explains.

The name ‘IndiskFika’, (“Indian fika”, a fika being a Swedish term for a coffee break in the middle of the day) came from Govindan and Veeramanivanna’s wish to combine Swedish and Indian cultures. 

IndiskFika performing in the Talang talent show. Photo: TV4

“We started with five to seven people in 2019, that was the first thing we did, and we did a shoot and edited everything, then we realised that if we wanted to release it, we should have a name,” Govindan says.

“So we started thinking ‘what name should we pick for this team?’. We came up with the idea IndiskFika. Everyone knows about fika in Swedish, right?” 

Their videos, some of which have over a million views, became popular both among Indians at home and among members of the Indian community in Sweden, whose interest helped the group grow further.

More and more Indians living in Stockholm started asking to join, and soon they were doing live performances:  one at the Chalmers University in Gothenburg, and another at the Diwali celebrations held by the Västerås Indian Association. 

When the pandemic hit, IndiskFika didn’t let it stop them. They started planning a digital one-year anniversary for the group, and began looking for other groups to collaborate with. 

That was how Govindan began collaborating with Varma, who had been performing with a different dance team. “I had been performing at various events like Namaste Stockholm with a different dance team based in Stockholm since 2017, but during pandemic, everything had come to a halt since it was a tough time for all of us,” she explains.

When new people joined IndiskFika, it gave the group a new impetus. “That’s when the boost started,” Govindan remembers. “We became stronger and stronger. So, so many things happened.”

IndiskFika first came to the attention of ordinary Swedes with an article in Ingenjörenthe members’ magazine for engineering union Sveriges Ingenjörer. Many of the group’s members are IT engineers or students at KTH, the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. “They did an article about us, about the engineers continuing their passion for dance, so that reached a more Swedish audience,” Govindan says. 

This led to more in-person performances, which in turn caught the eye of the producers responsible for Talang at Sweden’s broadcaster TV4.

“The Talang people said ‘we read about you and we’ve gone through all your YouTube videos, why don’t you come and participate in Talang 2022?’. The rest of the story you know. We participated in Talang, and we got a golden buzzer from David Batra in the prelims, so we went direct to the finals.”

David Batra, a Swedish comedian with an Indian father, is known for comedy series such as Kvarteret Skatan and Räkfrossa, as well as Världens sämsta indier (“World’s Worst Indian”), a series where he visits India, alongside public broadcaster SVT’s India correspondent Malin Mendel, and tries his hand at living and working in the country.

Batra is also one of four judges on Talang, whose golden buzzer meant that the dance team were awarded one of eight places in the final – four are chosen by votes and four are chosen by the Talang judges.

The group were among the top eight teams in the finals on March 18th, but for Indians in Sweden, reaching the final was a win in itself. They were invited for a fika with India’s ambassador to Sweden, where they were treated to both traditional Indian and Swedish treats.

The IndiskFika troupe on stage at TV4’s studios. Photo: TV4

Many of the group’s members work full-time alongside dancing, which can be difficult at times.

“It’s not easy to be so dedicated by spending extra effort after office hours, with hectic weekend schedules for rehearsals especially when everyone in the team has a full-time job,” Varma says. “There’s a lot of things that take place in the background from logistics to costumes, hall bookings, co-ordinating everyone’s availability, social media activities and so on.”

Like many foreigners, though, Govindan and Varma have taken their time adapting to life in Sweden. 

“All I knew about Sweden was that it was one of the cold and dark countries,” Varma says. “Eventually you start liking it, and you know, everything is worth it for the summers that you get here. The fika tradition, the amazing work/life balance, the nature, that’s the best part that we have here.”

“I didn’t have much of an idea about Sweden,” Govindan agrees. “The temperature, where I come from, throughout the year is between 25 to 40 degrees. In terms of temperature, nature, the people, everything is different.”

“India is very rich in culture, right?” Varma says when asked about the differences between Swedish and Indian culture. “We have a lot of colours and a lot of different flavours and you know, that’s the kind of performance we gave. That was the plan: to give a very energetic, powerful, and colourful performance.”

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