Karamba is a uniquely awesome place on Laugavegur: colourful, fun and completely free of pretensions. They’ve been keeping the good folks of Reykjavík entertained for a few months now, having opened its doors on Friday the 13th of March, a date Árni Rúnar, bar-manager extraordinaire of this kicky little hot-spot and pop-icon of FM Belfast fame, noted as being not very unlucky after all.
The eclectic bar was opened by the sister of Árni Rúnar’s girlfriend – FM Belfast band mate Lóa – and her husband, who had been successfully running neighbouring Santa Maria for over a year. “They thought this would be a good idea and it turned out to be a very good idea,” explains Árni Rúnar, “they asked me to manage the place after it had been open like two weeks.” This is despite the musician’s complete lack of experience working in a bar, let alone running one. Still, with years of experience as a customer at numerous bars under his belt, Árni Rúnar knew he wanted to give Karamba’s patrons “a place that’s fun to go to, like somewhere you can be happy being there. Not very serious or cool, more jumping and dancing.”
Karamba fills their quota of jumping and dancing by hosting as many live bands and as diverse an assortment of DJ’s as possible. One event that Árni Rúnar noted as a high-point in Karamba’s short history was one Saturday, after playing some shows for the Reykjavík Arts Festival, Haukur – valiant editor of this fine publication and Reykjavík! rock star – popped into the bar explaining that he had some German’s to keep entertained and asking if FM Belfast could drop by and play at the rehearsal studio the next day.
“I didn’t want to play at the rehearsal space for, like, five people. It would be horrible,” said Árni Rúnar. “So I said ‘let’s just do it at Karamba! Let’s make a concert for tomorrow!’”
So around 2 a.m. it was decided that Retro Stefson, FM Belfast, Reykjavík!, Agent Fresco and Mammút would put on a concert at 8 PM “This is the great thing about having this place because we don’t have any tight rules, we can do whatever,” the bar manager explained. “We can do these spontaneous things. It was amazing and it was one of the best concerts I’ve ever played. The atmosphere was really, really good and there were a lot of people in here – too many people!”
While they’ll continue giving live music to the people (both planned and spontaneous) Karamba will also start selling music in their future. “We’re going to have a record store in here, so we’re going to display the records in the window and sell them at the bar. A lot of the staff here are in bands or music and we have our record label here [World Champion Records] so we wanted to sell the music here.”
Running a bar isn’t all fun and games and record stores, granted, and Árni Rúnar likens Karamba to an old shoe in how quickly it degrades and how often it needs mending. And that’s just the building. “Also, all the glasses that break, it’s amazing!” he exclaimed. “Around 100 and something glasses every week disappear and break, but this is all positive because I know people are enjoying it.”
- What: Karamba
- Where: Laugavegi 22, 101 Reykjavík
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