It’s Thursday and time for Stammtisch. Dressed to impress, startle or amuse, students crowd the undermanned bar. All attempts at conversation, be it in German, French, Spanish, Japanese, English or Finnish, are nullified by the pounding music; the DJ cranks up the volume as odourous smoke is disgorged upon the dance floor.
I almost choke on my karpalo lonkero when I recognise the song to which the crowd is now jiving, a song I thought dead and buried in early adolescence.
Stammtisch parties, held bi-monthly in Rentukka, Kortepohja, are themed events organised by the students themselves, generally by language group or nationality. Students are only too eager to don garish get-ups, ranging from ethnic outfits to pyjamas or swimwear, and party til the wee hours with their international peers. It is truly awesome to see such a diverse group of people enjoying each other’s company, the reality of war and foreign policy, sanctions and ethnic rivalries are left outside the door as young people come to mingle and have fun. Stammtisch parties are a real cultural melting pot.
Perhaps this explains the bizarre choice in 1990’s bubblegum classics: Barbie Girl followed by Reel 2 Real’s I like to Move It was enough to make my ears bleed. I was, however, truly astounded by the enthusiasm exuded by the Stammtischers for the Macarena: they sang and danced to it not once but TWICE in less than two hours!
Thank goodness I brought earplugs and managed to dim some of what followed, hits from the likes of Men at Work, Eiffel 65 and the man who made baggy-hipped pants forever a fashion faux-pas, MC Hammer.
It was a relief when the DJ finally moved into the next century with the more recent Waka Waka soccer song. I guess knowing the lyrics to all the bad but annoyingly catchy 1990’s hits is an international phenomenon.
Despite all attempts to sit glumly hating the music, I could not resist the tub-thumping beats, although I will deny that I sang along with Los del Rio or had to sit on my hands in a desperate attempt not to join in the body tapping dance moves. Catering to the musical preference of such a culturally diverse crowd would be impossible, at least we were all united in feeling silly and having fun when dancing along to cheesy tunes.
So be not afraid of the retro music, head to Stammtisch, grab a cheap shot of fisu at the bar, lose all inhibition and start dancing like it’s 1995!
Suzanne van Rooyen
The writer is a masters student of Music, Mind and Technology.