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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
IndiskFika performing at the final of the Talang show on TV4 earlier this month. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

“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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DISCOVER SWEDEN

What to do in Sweden’s summer without Covid restrictions

After more than two years of pandemic-related restrictions and closures, Sweden is headed towards its first summer free of Covid restrictions since 2019. Here's some of what's going on.

What to do in Sweden's summer without Covid restrictions

Since April 1st, relaxed entry rules have allowed visitors from non-EU countries to enter Sweden without showing a vaccination pass or test certificate. As the last of the travel restrictions to be eased, summer tourism is finally set to return to the ways of pre-pandemic life.

As Swedes gear up for a summer without COVID, major tourist attractions, events, and festivals across the country are getting ready for what promises to be a fun few months.

STOCKHOLM

Pippi at Circus

After a two-year delay, ABBA and Astrid Lindgren fans finally have the chance to see Pippi at Cirkus, a new acrobatic musical performance at Cirkus Arena and Restaurant at Royal Djurgården in Stockholm.

The musical features lyrics by Björn Ulvaeus and music by Benny Anderson—the two “Bs” of ABBA fame—who have also previously written musicals like Chess, Mamma Mia and Kristina from Duvemåla. While the dialogue and lyrics of the show are in Swedish, the story is mainly told through circus acts.

The musical was initially set to premiere in Stockholm in June 2020, in celebration of Pippi Långstrump’s 75th anniversary, but was delayed due to the pandemic.

The world premiere of the musical is now set for July 1, 2022. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.

Pippi at Cirkus was intended to launch in 2020 but has been delayed for two years. Photo. Cirkus Cirkör

Music festivals in Stockholm

This summer, Sweden’s longest music festival, Grönan Live, returns to Stockholm’s Gröna Lund.

The festival starts in early May and runs through the end of August with concerts at least once every week. Performers include Jorja Smith, Dua Lipa, Tove Styrke and John Legend, among others. 

Festival passes cost SEK 395 and offer free admission to all concerts and dance evenings throughout the summer. They can be purchased directly from Gröna Lund.

Other big-name festivals lined up for the summer in Stockholm include Rosendal Garden Party, a four-day festival in June featuring artists like Jungle, Arlo Parks, Tyler the Creator, and The Strokes, and LollaPalooza Stockholm, a three-day event planned for July with bands such as Imagine Dragons, Post Malone, Lorde and Pearl Jam.

Allsång på Skansen will also return this year at the Solliden stage at Skansen open-air museum on the island of Djurgården in Stockholm. Allsång på Skansen is a classic summer concert where well-known Nordic musicians host a sing-a-long of classic Swedish songs. Allsång på Skansen will take place over eight Tuesdays, usually starting at the end of June. If you don’t manage to get tickets, don’t fret – it will also be broadcast live on SVT.

GOTHENBURG

Liseberg

On April 23, Liseberg opened at full capacity after more than two years of restrictions. 

The park also recently opened a completely new area—Luna Park—complete with two new family-friendly rides, Turbo and Tempus. 

The new area was built in celebration of Liseberg’s 100th anniversary, coming up in 2023. At that point, an additional roller coaster will also be featured in the new area. 

Luna Park is opening at the Liseberg amusement park in Gothenburg. Photo: Luna Park

Set sail for summer

Marstrand, on Sweden’s west coast, is known as Sweden’s sailing capital. It begins welcoming summer tourists for the 2022 season this month, offering gorgeous landscapes, quaint shops and cafes and exciting sailing events. 

The 2022 summer sailing season kicks off on the weekend of May 13, with the Marstrand SuperStar Cup, followed the next weekend by the Marstrand Big Boat Race. 

The island can be reached in about 50 minutes by public transport from Gothenburg. 

Alternatively, throughout the summer months, Stromma Boat Tours offers a day-long cruise to the island directly from Lilla Bommen.

On July 3, Gotland Runt, the world’s largest annual ocean race begins in Stockholm. The course, which starts inside the archipelago, continues around Gotland and finishes in Sandhamn is about 350 nautical miles and takes most competitors about 3 days to complete. The offshore race is one of the highlights of Swedish summer. 

Music

Live music events are also making a comeback in Gothenburg this summer.

On May 28, the city’s most charming district will be filled with live music from the American south at the Haga Bluegrass Street Festival, and Way out West returns in August with big name artists like Tame Impala, Burna Boy and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

From September 1-4 Gothenburg will also celebrate the comeback of its annual Culture Festival.

MALMÖ

Music

The summer begins with the triumphant return of Malmö Rock after a three-year hiatus. The full-day concert features punk, hardcore, metal and rock bands, headlined by Norrland’s own, Raised Fist.

Malmö Sommarscen returns this year between the 18th June -31st July, with music, concerts, theatre performances and allsång taking place at 47 different locations across the city for six weeks over the summer. The full programme will be released on June 2nd.

Malmöfestivalen also returns this summer from August 12th-19th. Locals and visitors alike flock to the city centre to enjoy live music, art exhibitions, rides, and, of course delicious street food. 

Street Food

Malmöfestivalen isn’t the only chance for Malmö-ites to get their hands on some delicious street food – the International Food Festival will also be in town between May 25th-29th, bringing authentic food and culinary culture from 15 different countries to the city.

Don’t live near Malmö? Don’t worry! The International Food Festival is travelling Sweden from May until September – maybe your town is on their tour?

Street Food Festivalen will also be coming to Malmö on July 1st-2nd, Stockholm on 26-27th August and Gothenburg on September 1st-4th.

By Lisa Catterall, Kirstie Hall, and Becky Waterton

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