Questionings – Norwegian-Indian collaboration at the Opera

24. Oct, 2011

The Norwegian metal band Vreid will in 2012 become the first metal band to play at the Opera in Oslo. Their music will come to life through Indian dancer Rukmini Chatterjee’s choreography in the show «Questionings», a remarkable and unique meeting between technology, music and dancing.

Cravings had to take a closer look, and sat down with Rukimini and Jarle Kvåle from Vreid for a «deeper meeting».

Text and photo by Cravings. Words: Øystein Tronstad. Photo: Anders Lindholm.

How did this all come together?

Rukmini: – My whole artistic path for the last 15 years has been dedicated to bringing together and finding the underlining unity in very diverse different cultures, artists and art forms. This project, with black metal music and new technology, is a continuation of that path.

R: – I want to talk about the energies that surround us today, and see how they affect man. These energies are not at all the same as they were 3000, 5000 or 50 000 years ago, so it was obvious that I had to work with an art form that was very much of today. Black metal artists are for me, some of the greatest urban poets who describe our world and man’s place in it with a true understanding. It was the direct link for what I wanted to work with.

How did you react when this project came to you?
Jarle: – At first I was thinking «what is all this?». It’s not like the usual thing you are being addressed if you want to work with some classical Indian choreographer. Then I started to read more about it, and I was quite amazed to see that she was searching for many of the same things that we are searching for. I also found immediate links for how they search for it. She embraces history and tries to see modern society out of history, and that is pretty much the basics of what we do. It felt like a great opportunity to take our music into new paths, investigate new areas and develop our art together with Rukmini.

Why did you choose Vreid for this project?
R: – I do not believe in coincidences. The moment I launched this project in Norway, through a Norwegian producer friend of mine, Vreid were the first to come forward and say «we want to do this». I think it is because we are searching for the same things, even though our art forms are very different. There are deep links between our worlds.

J: – As we started working together, I felt that we were touching the same topics, using the same methods of approach, but with completely different outcomes. I think we both are quite curious to see what this will generate.

R: – I think the dimension that will come out of the meeting of our art will be the real gift of this work.

Why is it called «Questionings»?

R: – I am sort of looking for answers, both in my art and in life, but these answers themselves become questions, and generate answers that will become questions. It is all about questioning life. There are many truths and many different paths to the truth.

J: – And that is something which captures me as well. We are not trying to follow certain dogmas, ethics or morals. This would not be the path for us if we wanted to be more mainstream or popular. We just follow our inner voice and try to find new answers.

Then I like to question the both of you. With such different forms of art, in your life, what is it that inspires you to reinvent yourself and your art?
J: – I am very much inspired by history, I like to read a lot and watch movies about prehistoric events. I am also inspired by nature itself. The environment in Norway is quite special, and going to other places and see the diversity and comparison makes Norway shine in a different light, compared to if I’d stayed in Norway my whole life.

R: – Basically I think all my work is influenced by finding unity in diversity. For the last 20 years I have been living in France and working between India, japan and Europe. Everywhere I have tried to build bridges to understand the other culture, bringing together our worlds and try to understand each other.

We are speaking some philosophical thoughts here. But from the show, what should one expect?

R: – It will be a coming together of worlds that are very different. Black metal music is going to be played in their style – the way they usually play it. I am going to try to bring this together with the rhythmic aspects of Indian classical dance. The third dimension is new technology. It will be the link between past and present. Images from the past will mix with what’s happening on stage and create a certain dimension where time and space no longer will have the same meaning.

R: – The lyrics of metal music are also very important and they are very strong. This performance draws a lot of inspiration from the tantric philosophy of India, a path in Hinduism where they believe in unity in all things – the sun, human beings, the moon, the table – everything has the same essence. When Jarle writes:

«I lit the fire
my world burns today

Tomorrow is our redemption
with ashes I wash them all away»

It has direct link to Hindu philosophy. We do not just talk about this. We live it in our bodies and souls.

J: – It is also a great way for us to have our lyrics more visualized than in a concert. It kind of creates a new outcome and vision for the music.

R: – When these words come on you will see a tantric ritual on stage, where a priest ritually undertakes the burning of his body, and from the ashes a new spiritual life force comes forth.

Do you think the show will appeal to young people?
J: – I do not think it is a matter of age. It is something to the mind. If you are open to see new things you can capture the essence and get some meaning out of it in one way or another.

R: – I think it is very important today for young people that are living in a globalized village, to see how artists from so diverse worlds are coming together. I deeply believe in meetings, not fusion.

J: – We are keeping our art form. She is keeping hers. We are not trying to adapt to each other.

But today’s youth are growing up in a world of «Idol,» «So You Think You Can Dance» and «X-Factor». What does that do to us as artists and individuals?
J: – I think the main problem with these programs is that everybody wants to be famous, and so they are not focusing on the content. But it has been like this in all cultures. If you look at the old Greeks they had plays where the young would try to gain acknowledge from the elders. But, I think there are many people out there that are interested in something more. We see it in black metal, which is a sub-genre. We can play all over the world and find people who are truly interested in this. There are good prosperities for the youth.

R: – I do believe that this is not an easy thing today. I think it is important to have something that is bigger than «oneself» to look up to. If we keep on just doing things for ourselves we can become very very small in this globalized village. If we have a bigger picture to look at, then we become more inspired and this can also lead to really becoming famous or rich, within ourselves as well as in the material world.


3 Indian dancers.
2 Indian musicians.
4 Norwegian metal musicans, the band Vreid.
It will be the first time a metal band is playing at the Opera.
Choreography by Rukmini Chatterjee who’s been working on this for over a year.
5 shows in India in Mars and April 2012.
2 shows at the Opera in June 2012.
1 show in Ullensaker.
1 show in Drammen.