Soca in Scandinavia: A Carnival Blossoms In Oslo

Words by Deejay Theory
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Caribbean culture and music are widely celebrated in dozens of European outlets, but one unlikely region is making an extra large amount of noise this Carnival season. Earlier this month, 32 years after the first effort to start a Carnival in Oslo, Caribbean culture returned to the streets of Norway’s capital in a big way. Among the guests who traveled to the city for this year’s celebration was none other than the Soca Viking Bunji Garlin, who has remarked that the celebration was a career highlight.

We spoke with Kele Eribe of Caribbean Islands, the eight-person collective behind Oslo Carnival, who are working to and connect the dots between Norway and the islands year round. Check out the interview and some photos below for an inside look into Oslo Carnival, and be sure to grab the first Carnival mixtape exported from the country, inspired by Kes the Band and the common goal of an endless summer.

LargeUp: How long has Carnival been happening in Oslo? Was this the first year? Who started it?

Kele Eribe: Oslo’s first carnival went down in 1983 and was a big event. They also had an own section inspired by Carnival in Trinidad, I think they called themselves Caribbean Culture Club. The public banned carnival in Oslo because of too much littering, fighting and alcohol in the streets. A group of people are now, slowly but steady, trying to establish carnival in Oslo as a annual happening every summer. 2014 is the first year where the West Indian carnival culture is represented. We are a group of eight people who are working on establishing a scene for soca and dancehall lovers. There are quite a few people in Norway who have been to Trinidad for carnival.

LU: About how many people took part? 

KE: About 150 in our section with costume, apart from that the whole of Oslo Carnival consisted of 11 bands. The carnival is kept small and exclusive  with the intention of making it a bigger cultural happening in collaboration with the public.

LU: How long has there been an audience for soca in Norway? 

KE: Since the 80’s there has been a soca audience. Like I mentioned, there used to be a spot called the Caribbean Culture Club who gave soca to the people. There is a audience today as well—it is small but it is growing. The eight of us that are working with Caribbean Islands have all been in Trinidad for carnival. The project leader Ida, is half Norwegian and half from Trinidad & Tobago, and actually the granddaughter of calypsonian The Roaring Lion.

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