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STOCKHOLM

The Local’s Quick Guide to Stockholm’s Culture Festival 2011

As the Stockholm Culture Festival gets set to kick on Tuesday, The Local's Caroline Bursell offers up a few suggestions to help visitors get the most out of the Swedish capital's annual cultural odessy.

The Local’s Quick Guide to Stockholm's Culture Festival 2011
Karin Nilsson; Stockholms Kulturfestival; Thomas Karlsson;

Six days, 300,000 visitors, over 500 acts and 250 artists: this is the magnitude and diversity of Stockholm’s sixth annual Culture Festival, which kicks off on Tuesday, August 16th.

The week offers entertainment at its finest in the form of global music styles, stand-up comedy, street art, drama, discussion, dance, and more, including offbeat specials like the world’s longest book table.

The festival is spread over four main venues right in the heart of the city.

At Gustav Adolf’s Torg, visitors can enjoy five nights of international performances, an adventure oasis for kids, as well and musical Mecca for adults.

Other venues include Brunkebergstorg outside the Riksbank, which is just a short walk from lively and central Sergel’s Torg, another one of the festival’s main sites.

And don’t forget the rooftop of Kulturhuset where each evening features a tribute to the best of Norwegian film, literature and debate.

All of this is free except for the City Walks and Stockholm’s Stadsteater theatre performances which require reservation fees.

The Stockholm Culture Festival has a lot on offer, so visitors should feel free to let their cultural compasses wander.

Many of the performances will be held on multiple days throughout the week, so there are plenty of opportunities to see a wide range of events, even if they occur at the same time on some days.

While the full programme can be viewed on the official festival website (see below), here are The Local’s picks of a few standout events.

Tuesday

Start your festival experience off with a humorous bang at noon, at the “beating heart of the festival” Sergel’s Torg, with variety show ‘Kate Wright: Ding dong Meet Yvonne! An Aussie beautician on a mission.’ This cheesy combo of circus and comedy, coupled with some juggling and hula-hooping experimentation, is sure to get you smiling.

At 7.30pm head to musical stage Gustav Adolf’s Torg to check out Motown legends Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, then stick around for Peter Jöback and Cookies’n’beans at 9.45pm. Though you will be offered neither cookies nor beans at the latter, prepare yourself for a generous serving of contemporary Swedish music.

Wednesday

Warm up your evening with live cooking, wine tasting and music – this hour-long sensation of taste takes place at Sergel’s Torg at 5pm every day of the festival.

American jazz singer Elisabeth Kontomanou performs at 6pm at Brunkebergstorg, and Dansens hus celebrates 20 years of dance with a performance at Gustav Adolf’s Torg including the Opera Ballet and Soul Sweat, among others.

Thursday

Get interactive on Thursday at Sergel’s Torg with “Ljud group: The Invasion.” This variety show with fully pink alien species invites you to play with extraterrestrials and engage in “interplanetary” dialogue – an experience in limbo between reality and fantasy you won’t want to miss.

At 9pm circus duo Jenifur and Beatrix pick a fight with your eating habits using Pilates balls, gaffer tape, bullwhips and more in their display of utter hatred for fat and carbs.

Friday

Friday’s highlights hinge on the beat of an exotic drum. African dance and fun at 4pm hosted by Dansmuseet gets children aged 4-10 on their feet, and if you fancy having a go yourself the museum welcomes adults to West African dance at 6pm.

At 7.30pm, Södra Teatern On The Run proudly presents Afro Cubism, a colourful collaboration of musicians from Mali and Cuba, at Gustav Adolf’s Torg.

Saturday

Take your pick of more vibrant music and dance on Saturday, from the oriental dance party “Re:Orient Halay!” at Brunkebergstorg starting at 6pm, to Gustav Adolf’s Torg’s final evening celebration with The Royal Opera at 8pm.

Throw in dance phenomenon Mechanical Trio & Heroes Part Two choreographed by international successes Yossi Berg and Oded Graf (10.30pm at Sergel’s Torg), and your last night of the festival will be anything but boring.

Sunday

On Sunday it’s time to wind down and get your fill of assorted literature along the world’s longest book table on Drottninggatan, a popular finish to the week’s festivities.

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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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