So yesterday was a Universal Day Of Culture and also yesterday the Facebook page Grunerløkka Alternatives announced that the crazy hot-spot for Techno fans -‘Naboen’s Techno Kjeller’- is closing its’ doors for good. Reason given? Police wants to stop the spreading of techno culture. Day of Culture you say?! Last year Berlin authorities exempted Berghain form paying taxes because they accepted techno as high culture, as valuable as theatre and other cultural forms of expresson. And Oslo celebrates the Universal Day of Culture by closing one of very few, and therefore so needed, electronic music venues.

Naboen’s Techno Kjeller

The closure of Naboen’s Techno Kjeller has really hit me hard. I was not the most loyal attendee, and can count the times I made an appearance there on one or maybe one and a half hands. My rate of nights out have generally decreased significantly in the last few years (since I came to Oslo!), as I am really picky not only about the music but also the vibe. Techno Kjeller has always had the vibe box ticked with bold ink. The club was located in the basement of one of the Oslo’s oldest bars with the same old (very old and in no way reminiscent of the majority of older citizens – healthy mountain loving folk with whitened teeth and joggies) men drinking their pints all day long. Situated in trendy Grunerløkka, Naboens’ seems like it’s a mistake, as if someone designing this hipster district, simply forgot to replace it with another barber\bike-accessory shop. In Oslo nothing is an institution (except for the one and true institution which is Norwegian state). New bars open and close, new people come and go (after all everyone comes to Oslo because of money, then many people move to other towns for the same reason, cos the rent is high and the number of qualified work positions is not sufficient). Very few bars in Oslo have history and a unique vibe and Naboen’s surely does and is refreshing for this very same reason.

I was almost ecstatic when I discovered Naboen’s Techno Kjeller as it provided what Oslo’s nightlife is truly missing – the crazy energy which results from a mixture of people from different backgrounds. Of course we had some kids wearing latest edition colourful air max and dressed as if they’re just stepped from the cover of some indie fashion magazine (no judgement passed there, some nights I fit this description too). But then we had some rave veterans, some hippies, many foreigners, these very very old men from upstairs bar with their pints of beer, someone dancing with crutches. I do get it sounds like a strange remark to make and I don’t mean that the success of the club should be measured by the number of people with crutches. But what I do mean is that Naboen’s Techno Kjeller was a truly inclusive venue, where everyone felt welcomed and there was no space for judgement.

The club was also providing a great platform for starting DJs, and there really is a need for such a platform, since there is a lot of politics behind the local electronic music scene, and playing at the two established venues – Villa and Jæger – takes a lot of right contacts. Being a good DJ is not what matters here. Some of the resident DJs in these two clubs are really not that great..like at all. That is not to say that the quality of music was overall greater in Naboen’s Techno Kjeller, it was not. Some of those behind the decks really knew what they were doing, and some were figuring out while they were at it. But the vibe was always so great, that everytime I almost forgot I was in Oslo.

The reason why the closure of the Techno Kjeller has hit me especially hard was because this friday, which happened to be the last friday for Kjeller ever, the music in the basement has blown me away and I was messaging everyone at 4am and even calling folk to say that I had one of the best nights in Oslo. And this ‘night’ was barely 40 minutes. After a very brief dive into Villa’s basement and disappointment that followed ( I only ever go when I know who will be playing and this one exception I made), me and companions walked to Techno Kjeller and to our surprise found ourselves in a queue. Half an hour later we were inside..in a queue to get to the actual cellar. Another half an hour and a beer in a queue later we were down, and a humble boy behind the decks was running this show with the sick reverb-heavy bass and fast dissonant melody. I instantly had a devilish smile on my face and the remaining 40 minutes was pure bliss. MRD is the name of this boy behind friday‘s decks in the Kjeller and it turns out he was playing exclusively his own tracks! I cannot stress my bewilderment about this enough. A lot of it was new-wave and post-punk laden, sick sounds and sick vocals. This was Berlin music! I felt alive again (it’s been a long dark winter) and kept on smiling thinking that maybe I can give Oslo another chance, which is lying all rusty somewhere in a corner of my heart. Turns out MRD is rather new to techno production and Djing! But you and me can find out more about this prodigy soon as I will have him on a friday’s Rushtid show on Radio Nova this friday from 3 to 5 pm, so do tune in! 

The bigger picture

But sadly, I am here not only to praise the Techno Kjeller or MRD, but to rant about the general state of Oslo’s nightlife affairs. I am not exactly sure how does ‘no more techno’ constitute a reason for a shutdown of a venue, but in Oslo it surely does. Any new venue with electronic music focus in Oslo faces police interrogations..or more often, it never even comes to interrogations, but rather a direct command to close the doors for good. The same was the case with Natta Fabriken, the opening of which was such a pleasant surprise, as Oslo’s electronic music scene is more or less comprised of 3 venues. It has been only two venues for a long time – Jæger and Villa, until Elefant opened its doors over a good year ago (or is it almost two years?!). I cannot understand how is this oligopoly tollerated. But then again, in Norway we have oligopoly with respect to all services and markets, and tollerance, or rather complacency, is the biggest norwegian value, it seems. Norway is a very special place. There is financial security with one never really having to worry that you will lose a job and will end up on the street. The social services will help you (although the stories of this failing are quite a few). Perfect conditions for having a family, disability benefits and all that jazz  (just not techno, remember). It’s all good and well, but it seems like this Norwegian dream has hypnotised people into oblivion.

Is financial security really all we need? It would be, if we believed in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory. But today most psychologists agree that Maslow got it wrong. Not only because he downplayed the role of the need for feeling of meaningfulness and of activities which encourage curiosity, but also because he failed to notice that these constructs, which he deemed as superior needs, are actually ways of satisfying the primary needs. That is, creatiivity, sponatenity etc. help to establish social networks which in turn help to satisfy the basic needs. For example, acquiring friends and allies contributes to our survival and acquiring sexual partners helps us to stand a chance at meeting someone with the help of whom we will represent our genes in future generations. Thus, even from a basic biological standpoint, community where people can be their true selves is at the core of all needs, and such a community is truly lacking in this facist country (before you ask me why don’t I get the fuck out if I hate it so much, I promise you I will after the summer during which I save some cash to enable this escape).

While complacency seems to be the actual norwegian value, the official one is democracy. This is, what we actually get taught in the norwegian language textbook for foreigners ‘Her på Berget’. And yet, I do not feel this democracy and it shocks me how everyone around me is convinced otherwise. Fistly, I believe that it does not take much for authorities to create the illusion of democracy, because the ‘Oil fond’ keeps everyone’s mouths full enough to silence them. It is easy to create the illusion of democracy when there is enough money for everyone to buy the newest iPhone release. Secondly, democracy which can be entertained only by certain groups of people seems to undermine the very essence of democracy. In Norway, electronic music fans are a group with least rights (after refugees perhaps). Our need for a thriving music scene is completely not taken on board, and quite the opposite is the case with police running an abolition campaign. This is not an exaggeration, it is a simple fact. In November , as part of the Oslo World Music festival, Kulturhuset had a screening of ‘Raving Iran’ – a documentary about the supression of electronic dance music in Iran and the two DJs who escaped the country for this reason. In the discussion which followed, among others (like the famous Bassiani club owner) we had Oslo’s own Jæger’s owner, who completely agreed that police is running an abolition campaign and instruct security to throw out anyone who dances with their eyes closed. The authorities are of course aware that closure of Jæger or Villa might cause even the numb Oslovians to express their dissatisfaction and thus allow these instututions to function.

These centrally located venues are luring to anyone who is on a binge drinking night out and has no idea what sort of music will be played that night. A simple and efficient way (used in most clubs in UK) to filter out the drunkens and to ensure that the people inside are the ones who really appreciate the music is to ask people upon entering what DJ did they come to see. However, I cannot forsee this approach being implemented in Oslo, as neither the club owners nor police seems to be motivated to do so. And this brings us to the question..what is police (government) so afraid of when it comes to techno? Clearly it is not the overindulgence in alcohol. Is it drugs? I am quite sure that this is a big part of the story, but what a short-sighted approach to take. The discussion is way beyond the scope of this rant, but as it is evident to anyone entertaining thinking mode and from examples in other countries, what we need is not prohibition but regulation of quality and prevention of accidents. And even if we believed that the authorities trully think that prohibition is still the way to go, it is clear that their thinking is not motivated by the desire to help. This becomes very evident when you see someone being thrown out of the club on the basis of suspected drug use (not to mention that the number of instances where this suspicion is unfounded is almost silly and I could write a separate blog about that). Surely, if you thought the person in question might be in danger, the thing you would do is inquire if they needed any help and if they obviously needed some, first aid trained staff would provide such help (and this is the approach used in clubs in UK where I worked, even with reminder posters in the toilet cubicals instructing on how to take different drugs safely). Instead, the person is simply thrown out on the street. They die or not, is of interest to no one, as long as the death does not take place on the premises of the venue..because the venue will face closure. Great system!

But importantly, I feel that what police is really afraid of, is the building of a tight community which is driven by passion. Now this is surely a threat as it might, as it should, challenge the premise of a Norwegian state, which as mentioned before is …complacency. No one here wants people who are using their own head and dare to raise questions, especially if these people are in a tight community and support each other.

My rant has to come to an end, and I have to make it clear that I am not against the concept of a state per se, I am not an anarchist. I just want a state and society which encourages prospering of culture in all of its forms and which actually lives by democatic standards and not only builds a fassade with a neon sign ‘Democracy’. And I understand that this is a multidimensional problem, as the change has to come from within. And perhaps complacency and conformity are too deep-rooted in Norwegian value system, for this change to ever take place. This is also a vicious circle as the authorities feed this complacency (mouths too full) and the complacency of individuals (is this an oxymoron?!) prevents any reaction and challenging of the norms and  expectations. But the political chatter aside, what is clear is that creativity and prosperity of culture requires friction! By friction I mean a blend of people from different backgrounds and environment which encourages curiosity and provides a platform for new talents. Naboen’s Techno Kjeller was one such place and losing it, especially on the day which is meant for celebrating culture, is a rather sad story.

But to finish with a sligtly comic note, imagine the hollowness that will open in the hearts of Naboens’ regulars’ as their fridays will again be confined to those 7 or something pints drank while sitting in one chair. All those flashing lights just a distant memory..

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17 thoughts on “How Oslo celebrated the Universal Day of Culture OR we need to talk about the state of techno culture in Oslo

  1. All so true! Last time I was there there were old guys from the bar coming down to dance…so wholesome in such a sketchy way! I will miss it a lot!

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  2. Naboens made me shake my head in disbelief in how a place this weird can exist. Wasn’t a regular, but this shows a sad trend. I won’t even mention the 3 am lights out in this country. We’re treated like children.

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    1. Yes! And the problem, I feel, is that when treated like children people often start behaving in childish ways. It is unacceptable to have a few drinks or a little party on a weekday, so everyone gets wasted on the weekend and act like dogs released from the leash the first time..And this in turns means that they do kinda need someone treating them as kids..again a vicious circle!

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  3. Thank you for the kind words. And im happy i gave you a better club experience here in Norway.. I hope there will be a new place soon.

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  4. If your not a typical square Norwegian peasant who like to listen to jolly indie pop and play shuffle board with your IPA drinking, dialect speaking bitch ass buddies, then there’s no place for you here. We prefer to keep the city white and clean. Sorry for the inconvenience.

    Kind Regards,
    Oslo Police District
    (Department for Ethnic and Cultural Cleansing)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am a foreigner as well and I do not agree with this text completely. Some good points, but a lot of attitude and self-righteousness as well. And a critique of the whole Norwegian state system just because a club was shut down, and then ranting about democracy? Where does democracy exist, and where is it that the police do not do stupid shit? Norway is a great country to live in, and you go comparing it to Iran? People take a lot of drugs in Norway. I have been to parties and I know. They drink a lot and they take a lot of drugs and can be a real mess and plague. And Oslo is a small city with a small techno scene and a small downtown, so having alternative clubs downtown is a damn stupid idea because then the freaks on drugs are going to be obvious, making a mess in the streets that the police and others do not want when the club closes at 3 am. London and Berlin have the amount the citizens as the entire population of Norway and more. Why compare and criticize so much? Norway is a peripheral country and the culture here compared to other big European cities lacks in every way and aspect possible. So really, what is needed is a good club a bit outside of the Oslo center, maybe even outside of Oslo, with a possibility for renting a private house of after party after 3 am. The bikers do it, so why cannot the techno lovers do it? This is a really negative article, if you ask me. No solutions, just problems.

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    1. Hey! I am so happy you wrote this! Because what I really want is a discussion 🙂 And I agree with quite a few points you make, and actually I have discussed them with a friend when writting this, but then decided I will just stick with my rant approach. And as I called it a few times, this is a rant, which was almost hard to write cos it was hard from resisting clenching my fists.

      What I agree with you about is that comparing Oslo to Berlin or London does not make sense. Actually, Berlin is the only city with explicitely positive attitude towards clubbing culture (perhaps Amsterdam too) and that is likely also driven by not so selfish reason as the tourists flood the city for this very rason and so help the economy. London and other places manage, as you say, cos they are big cities with many people passionate about the scene.

      I also agree that to generally say that Norway is the opposite of democracy is ofc exaggerated, as most countries are worse.

      What bugs me though, is that Norway prides itself on being a democratic fairytale and, as it is evident from such instances, that is definitely not the case.

      What bugs me more is the complacency of people, and I believe that the lack if a vibrant scene results not only because of the size of Oslo, but also because of this hypnotising state the citizens are induced with.

      Norway is a great country on many objective values, as I said. But I do trully believe and know many ppl who think this way too, that the biggest problem in Norway is the lack of problems. And as silly as this sounds, I know people who lived here and feel the same way. There is no friction cos everything is fine. And people are kit expected and even judged for speakkng their minds and questioning established conatructs. As I said, I think it is a vicious circle of a problem.

      I also do take on board that I am not solution-driven, ans as a matter of fact my chosen solution is a lazy one – escape. But I agree that sadly, change of lication might help.

      So I do take your points on board and thank you so much for reading and commenting!

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  6. It will be interesting to see if the expected decriminalization of drugs will have any effect on the Police attitude and how they work towards the nightlife industry. Unfortunately I doubt that we will see any major changes anytime soon. It’s a damn tragedy that the authorities in this city are actively undermining club culture, electronic music and nightlife in general. I think the retarded and unsoafisticated Norwegian party culture is a product of the strict regulations.

    Your negative views on Oslo nightlife is somewhat understandable, but Oslo is quite a vibrant city when it comes to music and art. Apparently no other European city has as many concerts per capita than Oslo, despite the strict regulations put upon nightlife and music. Your negativity towards Oslo and it’s culture says more about your attitude than anything else. And in the end culture has no objective truth, it’s all about perspective. So ultimately a positive attitude will lead to more change than negativity and complaining.

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    1. Yes, it will really be interesting with decriminalisation. I wonder if the war with electronic music venues will go on. Well there are things to look forward to, curious how will this pan out 🙂

      And yes, I absolutely agree that my overwhelming negativity is not the way forward. This was a rant and to be fair, I am very surprised how did it not result in some people being very mean to me. Perhaps again, because you norwegians are just too polite and complacent 😛

      But I am very glad this rant made some people like you voice their opinions, we need that! Thank you for reading 🙂

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  7. Oh please. Like im for free drugs and all, and NTK had a nice concept. But there were flowing with MDMA use and hash smoking. Its illegal. And the police has to do their job. To bad. Sucks, but lets be real but it.

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    1. I never actually witnessed the smoking. Also, all clubs have a lot of drugs circulating. But NTK definitely should have had stricter control..in a way it is not surprising it got closed down. I mean there really had to be control coming from within a club to avoid control from outside the club.. I get it. But I wonder if there were any attempted compromises? Like police asking them to have stricter control etc, because a straight up closure is a bit harsh imo.

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  8. Well, maybe 5 out of all the nights they arranged had something to do with actual techno, the rest was just plain old boring tech-house! Abusing the techno name is not cool! 😦

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  9. I went 5 times or so and 2 of the nights were techno, the rest..some deep house, which I am not very fond of (to put it nicely). So I agree that calling itself Techno Kjeller might not have been appropriate. But still cool, to have a platform for starting DJs, regardless the genre 🙂

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