It was our first time in Norway, so we were completely unaware of what to expect. And especially given the fact that we were entering the country exactly a week after their biggest attack since the World War II. One festival in Oslo was cancelled because of that and the organizers at Sommerfesten were not sure about going on either. But they did and boy, are we glad they did!
Norway is a beautiful place and everywhere you look could be your desktop wallpaper or some post card you are sending back home! And after a really long journey, where we did Bangalore – Bombay (layover) – London (layover) – Oslo – Alesund and that was close to 24 hours of sitting in planes and airports, we stepped out into the crisp cold air of the Alesund airport and it was like magic! We snapped out of whatever jetlag and tiredness there was and there was even a spring in our step.
A short ride to our hotel, the Quality Waterfront, by the bay where there was possibly the biggest ship we have seen in our lives, the MS Queen Elizabeth parked right outside. And that, I think was a sure sign of how much fun we were to have and how much of our time would be in or beside the water!
We had just about enough time to put our bags into the room when Kristin, our hostess for the trip was all set to take us on our first boat trip of the weekend. A short trip to the Alnes lighthouse where there was dinner arranged for us, which was a healthy mix of Norwegian, Spanish and Japanese food, with an extra emphasis on sea food caught from the Norwegian seas, and a healthy overdose of beer and wine, which was served in a boat!
All the artists playing at the festival were at the lighthouse and it was the perfect way to break the ice (pardon the pun) and set the perfect vibe for the festival. The festival is about a bunch of friends / volunteers that come and hold a free music festival for over 30,000 people, where the artists go and play for free, and everyone does their bit for free. And the ‘bunch of friends’ vibe was set beautifully at the dinner and it also, in my opinion, set the tone for the rest of the weekend.
After chatting with almost everyone there, eating some fantastic seafood, drinking a LOT of beer, and then at one point, even climbing the light house, we were all whisked off in our van to the hotel to retire for the night!
The next morning was when we went and checked out Ocean Sound Recordings, one of the coolest places we have seen EVER! and it was a studio, like their website says, at the end of the world, in an absolute stunning location and had some of the most fantastic equipment available and a kickass room to record in!
We had lunch there and it was then a nice long walk along the Norwegian coastline for us to head to the festival. Now, let me put this in perspective for you. All of Giske, the town the festival happens in, has about 7000 people, thats an average housing complex in India now a days, and in that town of Giske, there is an island of population about, 700 people, where the actual site of the festival is. This island is so small, that there are no shops on the island. You have beautiful landscape and houses with incredible views.
So considering this, you must know that Norwegians are not really used to crowds. So when 35,000 people turn up for a free festival, on this island, it is a sight to be seen! And this year, they did!
The music started by 2 in the afternoon, and when we reached there, after our long walk, it was time for the memorial. There was a really touching memorial organized at the festival for all the victims of the horrid things that had just rocked Norway a week back. All artists at the festival contributed in some way, and the memorial was closed by Fran Healy, of Travis, singing ‘Sing’ with the entire crowd holding up red heart banners to show their solidarity. For each Norwegian there, considering it is a small place, where everyone we met knew someone or atleast someone who knew someone who was affected by the blasts, it was a special and touching moment.
We got on stage without wasting too much time and after a quick set up, it was time for us to launch into our music and like someone told us after our set, our ‘happy’ music was the best thing to go on after the memorial.
Raghu started with Hey Bhagwan, dedicating it to Norway, with a little prayer to the powers above to help Norway carry on through the tough time and for everyone affected, a second lease of life. We were to only play 4 more, so we breezed through Gudugudiya, and then dropped it down a bit for ‘No Man will ever love you, Like I do’ dedicated to our lovely hostess, Kristin who was seen jumping around making sure everyone she knows (and she knows a LOT of people) know that it was her we were referring to.
We then played ‘Kodagana Koli Nungitha’ before we ended with the “party song”, Mysore se Aayi, where we had everyone on their feet dancing to their heart’s content. A sight to be seen, and hopefully, we will have video evidence of it to show!
We were overwhelmed at the fantastic response and a huge thanks to everyone who came to watch and for everyone who made this trip possible!
The rest of the festival was quite amazing, with some of the best talent in Norway on display including Lars Vaular, Nils Petter Molvær, Susanne Sundfør and Morten Abel. And people stayed back, till 2 in the morning to listen, and enjoy themselves thoroughly.
But the trip din’t end there for us. We had a whole day ahead and some fantastic experiences in store. At noon, after having been given enough time to recover from the previous night, and then put on 3 big boats, and driven an hour into the fjords to the home of Severin and Lene, who stay in the most serene and picturesque surroundings I’ve ever seen.
To add to the awesomeness that was already too much to handle, our food was slow cooked in the earth! it was spiced and wrapped in the morning and was buried in the garden, with some hot stones over it it to let it slow cook in the heat and the pressure. And it tasted out of this world! And many of us were seen licking all the bowls clean and making sure all the little pieces were all wiped clean!
The place itself is an experience and it was with a heavy heart and heavier stomachs, that we headed back to our hotel, only to be promptly reminded that it was time to head for dinner. And not just any dinner, it was at the Atlanterhavsparken Aquarium where there was a special 3 course meal laid out for us, specially cooked for the occasion. And with it a Jam where most artists at the festival came on and did some special songs.
It was finally time to head back to our hotels, catch some well deserved sleep and wrap up any work we had online, and even squeeze some more sight seeing and then head to the airport for our flight back to London, where we will be based for the next 15 days.
But in the meanwhile, I don’t think any of this will be erased from our minds anytime soon.
Thanks Ante and Brent for all that you do, to Kristin and Anne May, the funnest girls we met, thanks for showing us an awesome time! and to Mette, for the fantastic person that you are!
A special thank you to Fran, Nora and to the amazing Clay, you guys are such humble people and after all that you have achieved, it is an ideal we hope to follow
And to Norway, you stole our hearts at the first glance, and now I don’t see how we can wait too long before we come back. In the words of the Terminator, “We’ll be back!”