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HOLIDAYS

Introducing: The Swedish crayfish party

It's August in Sweden, meaning that it is time for the annual and very traditional crayfish parties. The Local's Isabela Vrba explores the origins of the kräftskiva and the ingredients for a perfect party.

Introducing: The Swedish crayfish party
Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

It is an old tradition that has become an excuse to party, drink, and consume unhealthy amounts of crustaceans. But for those who have never been to a crayfish party, it can be a bit confusing as to what exactly is being celebrated.

Jonas Engman, an ethnologist at the Nordic Museum in Stockholm, says that crayfish have been on Swedes' plates for a very long time indeed.

"People have been eating crayfish since the sixteenth century, but it wasn't until the nineteenth century when the parties actually started," he explains. "It was a way to say farewell to summer and welcome to autumn. And August was also the month the crayfish were ready to be fished."

Photo: Christine Olsson/TT 

The consumption of the crayfish grew significantly in the end of the nineteenth century to a point where they were overfished, meaning Sweden needed to draw in the reins instead of the nets. A law came in force that only allowed consumption from August 7th – the kräftpremiären ("The Crayfish Premiere") – through to November 7th.

"But the law was abolished in 1994," Engman explains. "Nowadays the party is usually celebrated throughout August."

Photo: Björn Lindgren/TT

And the Swedes sure know how to celebrate properly. Engman shared the five ingredients for a successful kräftskiva (pronounced kreft-HWEE-va).

1. Crayfish. Without a doubt, the most important ingredient. And make sure they're well prepared, he says. Other Swedish foods that go along with the festivities are Västerbotten cheese and knäckebröd (crispbread).

2. Snapsvisor Some would argue that the snapsvisor (traditional drinking songs) are more important than the alcohol itself. These songs are supposed to be sung when taking shots. Engman said that there are many varieties and tunes, and that it's often the students who add new songs to the mix.

One popular snapsvisa is called Helan Går – literally "the whole thing goes". Here are the lyrics in Swedish. 

Helan går
Sjung hopp faderallan lallan lej
Helan går
Sjung hopp faderallan lej
Och den som inte helan tar
Han heller inte halvan får
Helan går
Sjung hopp faderallan lej
 
If that sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo, never fear, someone has created an English version too so you can sing along. Well, sort of. 
 
Hell and gore 
Chung Hop father Allan Ley 
Hell and gore Chung Hop father Allan Ley 
Oh handsome in the hell and tar 
and hell are in a half and four 
Hell and goooooore …
Chung Hop father Allan Ley

3. Decorations. The trademark décor found at crayfish parties are round moon faces hanging from the ceiling and walls. "These moon faces most likely mark the fact that summer is getting darker," Engman explains. 

4. Party hats. These are optional but tend to be included, usually with a picture of a crayfish on. Why? Who knows why. Just put your hat on and get on with it. 

5. People. What is party without the people? Engman says that Crayfish parties in Sweden are very similar to Christmas parties in that the whole family tends to get together to celebrate. So make sure you've got plenty of room if you're hosting.

Photo: Fredrik Persson/TT

With that in mind, take on more look at the lyrics above, pour out some aquavit… and skål! 

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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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