Nothing says Sweden to me more than pop sensation ABBA, famous for their hit songs like "Mamma Mia!" and "Dancing Queen".
Little wonder, then, that this was the highlight of my visit to Sweden a few weeks ago.
To date, the pop band have sold over 380 million albums, and ABBA the Museum in Stockholm, Sweden, invites you to discover why and be part of their worldwide success.
Of course, I also remember that Sweden produced the super-talented musician, DJ, remixer and record producer Avicii who took his own life by cutting himself with a broken wine bottle while on holiday in 2018.
What a tragic loss.
But long before Avicii came into the picture, ABBA had set Sweden firmly on the world music map. The group shot to world fame in 1974 when their hit song “Waterloo” won the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton, England.
My all-time ABBA favourite and a karaoke hit by many standards is “Dancing Queen”. Sample some of the lyrics because I’m sure you will agree with me thereafter: You are the dancing queen/ Young and sweet/ Only seventeen/ Dancing queen/ Feel the beat from the tambourine, oh yeah/ You can dance/ You can jive.
So of course, this is what I jammed to in the virtual stage setup as the museum gives everyone an opportunity to stand right next to the band as the "fifth band member".
The virtual stage simply means that as you sing in an actual stage, the four ABBA members are projected from high up above the ceiling, making it look like you are standing right next to them. If you feel a little shy about getting up on stage, you can make a fool of yourself in the karaoke booth where nobody is watching.
It’s definitely one of those must-try experiences!
Guests to the museum also have an opportunity to record and download their performances on the museum's website.
But it gets better than karaoke at the museum.
The immersive museum experience grabs your senses from the minute you step in.
You experience the ABBA “How We Met” story in full colour, with text, audio and video to boot.
With replicas of their clothes to the originals, it’s a gold mine for ABBA lovers and sceptics alike (sceptics, you know, like those who ask about what the fuss is about). Trust me, they will be converted.
But there is more to the museum than just fun and singing.
The different textures of their emotions, of their relationships, their children and colleagues are explored in the sincerest way possible.
You will get headphones at the reception once you pay the entrance fees and the stories are told from the first person perspective of the four band members: Agnetha Fältskog, Benny Andersson, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Björn Ulvaeus who take us through their early life, career, personal lives and eventual band breakup in 1982.
The playful tone of the exhibition ends at 1982 where guests get treated to the "full story" of what happened after the band took a break.
While one would expect an end to their showbiz careers after they broke up, each person ended up achieving success in their solo careers in music, film and books.
The number of films, including Mamma Mia! and Mama Mia! Here We Go Again, are testament to the unending fascination the world has with the band. Some of the band members have also collaborated to produce musicals like Chess and Kristina.
Interestingly, the museum’s immersive experience does not end there as one can also sleep in the ABBA-themed rooms at the Pop House Hotel for a full 360 degree experience of what it’s really like to be part of ABBA.
On the way out, one can purchase ABBA memorabilia to keep the memory alive.
As a Kenyan, the museum also served as a lesson about how we treat our musical legends. Ketebul Music has already played its role by immortalising legendary Kenyan musicians through the book Shades of Benga – The Story of Popular Music in Kenya: 1946 – 2016. But we need to do much, much more than we are already doing to thank them for their music.
Indeed, in my thank you to the great musicians of our time, I will end with the words from one of ABBA's songs “Thank You for the Music”: Thank you for the music, the songs I'm singing/Thanks for all the joy they're bringing/Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty/What would life be?
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