I am in my third floor studio in downtown Oslo. It's called Grønland – or Greenland, but it has more colours than green. It is a melting point for the multicultural population of Oslo. Right now it is undergoing a dramatic face lifting and reconstruction process, partly due to the new Opera House that is being built not far away. Over the street from me huge cranes swing back and forth with their heavy loads, lit up in the darker hours with green white and red lights. Cement mixers and drills bump and bonk as my view of the Oslo fjord becomes hidden by buildings that seem to grow themselves as the days pass. It feels as if aliens have landed.

Cars swoosh past, police sirens whine, their red lights reflected on the window panes together with the flashing light-ornaments of Magic City, a shop across the street. It sells trinkets, clothes, cooking implements, curtains, carpets, cups, plates, shoes, lamps, gold and parabol antennas. I can hear a gabble of languages and cell phone tones from the street below. When the wind blows in my direction the pungency of horse manure reaches my nose from the horse show in the stadium down the road. It is mixed with the smell of kebabs and pizzas of the 24-hour fast food joint in the ground floor.

It is Ramadan. The small mosque on the second floor is full to the brim with men, women and children gathered to break their fast with their traditional ritual of food and prayer. Those who don't fit inside sit on the steps and stand in the corridor with the empty shoes of those able to enter. Wafts of spicy food, incense and sweaty shoes merge with the sound of the prayer chants, and become more intense as the evening progresses. From the sound of things, it is a very emotional sceanse.

From the recording studio on the floor above comes the repetitive efforts of a guitarist who plays the same riff over and over again, in search of the perfect sound. Only the first floor, home to a family-run electrical firm, is silent.

At times the cacophony of lights, aromas, movement and sounds is invigorating, at others it feels like a sensory assault – this synaesthesia of the city. 


Audio: Ummi Oslo, Nood 1996.