The Norwegian dance sensations tell ‘Tatler’ why they’re rooted in diversity and how they created their signature multicultural vibe

Afro-trap music blares from a studio space in an industrial building near central Oslo. It stops abruptly and switches to early 2000s Punjabi hit Nachenge Saari Raat by the late British-Indian singer Tarsame Singh Saini, aka Taz Stereo Nation, before transitioning into Norwegian R&B-pop. Loud chattering and exclamations erupt periodically throughout this musical melange, as 13 members of the Norwegian dance crew Quick Style present break out into choreography spontaneously. With tastes in music as varied as their backgrounds, when they are in a room together, a festive atmosphere is always a given.

And there has been much to celebrate since the group formed in 2006: they won Norske Talenter, aka Norway’s Got Talent, participated in reality show World of Dance, toured the world, opened a dance studio in Chengdu and choreographed dance numbers—Boys with Luv, Blood Sweat and Tears and Save Me—for K-pop megaband BTS. But none of those gigs gave Quick Style the level of global recognition they’ve experienced since a video of their performance at co-founder Suleman Malik’s wedding went viral this past summer.

“We didn’t do it with the intention [that it might] go viral; it just happened,” says Bilal Malik, Suleman’s twin brother and another co-founder. “When something goes viral, you don’t control it; it’s the people who control it.”

Above The viral video, featuring Quick Style's performance at founder Suleman Malik's wedding

A 12-minute medley of mostly Bollywood songs, the performance showcased the group’s suave moves, irresistible charisma and affable chemistry. “It’s a very unfiltered personal friendship,” says Nasir Sirikhan, the third of Quick Style’s founding trio, of moments in the video when they laugh at each other’s mistakes and riff off of each other’s energies. “You rarely see that; it’s a vibe that’s quite contagious, and luckily it was caught on camera and people felt it.”

The video has racked up more than 94 million views on YouTube and a combined total of over half a billion shares and views across social media platforms. One segment from the performance, choreographed to the popular Bollywood song Kala Chashma, became a TikTok dance challenge taken on by the likes of Jimmy Fallon, Demi Lovato and the Indian cricket team.

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Above Quick Style in Norway (Photo: Ida Fiskaa)

When Tatler met them in September 2022, they had recently returned from London and New York where they held meet-and-greet events with their fans. “To be honest, we didn’t really know how big we were,” says Yasin Tatby, who became one of the first non-founding members of Quick Style in 2010. “It’s when we travelled abroad, that’s when we realised how people react when they see us.”

“It was so fantastic to see all the love and energy,” says member William Gamborg, of meeting their newfound fanbase. “It’s really like brotherhood between all of us. At the wedding, we just wanted to express our love for Suleman, which is why [the video] went viral. You can feel the love through the screen.”

The love is so palpable because the group’s kinship has history behind it: Thai-Norwegian Sirikhan and the Pakistani-Norwegian Malik twins were childhood best friends and founded the group in 2006 when they were teenagers. Their interest in dance was ignited after they watched the 2004 film You Got Served and were introduced to the world of battling and hip-hop.

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Above Quick Style Founders Nasir Sirikhan, Bilal Malik and Suleman Malik (Photo: Ida Fiskaa)

They began taking classes and would rehearse where they knew local b-boys practised, gradually discovering more and more styles, which led them to formulate their own distinctive approach to dance. “It started off with hip-hop and us just being our stupid selves dancing in front of the mirror in our bedrooms,” says Sirikhan sheepishly. “We didn’t know what we were doing, but we thought it felt right.”

Something was clearly right. In 2009, the trio won Norway’s Got Talent, and became well known locally. Soon after, they set up Quick Style Studio in downtown Oslo and started teaching their unique approach to hip-hop, and in the process unintentionally created a hub conducive to creative and multicultural engagement.

David Vu, who is half-Taiwanese and half-Vietnamese, joined Quick Style with his friend, Indian-Norwegian Kunal Bhart, in 2013. Within three years, he was invited to start teaching there. “It was one of the best-known studios at the time so naturally we gravitated towards it,” says Vu. “They value personal development as much as growth through dance.” 

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Above Egil Mikael, Dilen Da Silva, David Vu and Nasir Sirikhan (Photo: Ida Fiskaa)

There is a strong nurturing element to the studio and Quick Style’s philosophy as well. The group started with a group of 10 students more than a decade ago, and now they have roughly 200 enrolled, with many having grown up along with the studio.

Half-Swedish, half-Norwegian Oskar Vigren was 10 years old when he started dancing with Quick Style in 2012. Vigren, who up until this year lived in Eidsvoll, a small town outside Oslo, was especially struck by the studio’s multiculturalism. He’s also seen them grow by incorporating this diversity into their choreography, and evolving their hip-hop roots into a more layered, international style.

This multiculturalism is undoubtedly a reflection of the crew’s diversity. The members represent a variety of cultures: Pakistani, Thai, Namibian, Norwegian, Finnish, Filipino, Indian, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Swedish, Hong Kong Chinese and Moroccan. And it’s the ability to genuinely understand and embrace different cultures that makes Quick Style stand out. It also helps them effortlessly translate the sentiments of each song they choreograph, regardless of culture or genre. “We like it all,” says Bilal, “from Somali to Afghani to Persian to Thai to Pakistani music. The difference between us and other groups is that we  understand the humour and feeling behind the culture and music.”

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Above Oskar Vigren, David Vu, Egil Mikael, Bilal and Suleman Malik (Photo: Ida Fiskaa)

The founders are in large part responsible for the kind of exposure Quick Style members and students are given, by cultivating interest in different musical genres but also through drawing from their personal lives. “We have five older sisters who were Bollywood-crazy,” says Suleman. “They were always playing music from those movies and we just grew up with it.” 

Because of this, their song choices speak particularly to millennial and Gen-Z diasporic South Asians. “They [the songs] are nostalgic and we just want to bring them back,” says Sirikhan. And they hope, too, to introduce the music to new fans, and be the ones setting, not following, trends. “We have this cool playground, where we don’t have to think ‘Oh this song is a hit so we should dance to it’. Rather, it’s ‘Let’s make this song a hit [again]’.”

Although not South Asian themselves, the half-Moroccan, half-Finnish Tatby and Hong Kong’s own David Leung grew up in Oslo’s Sinsen and Grønland neighbourhoods respectively, which are both homes to large  Pakistani and Punjabi populations, and so they were immersed in South Asian music, dance and culture from a young age.

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Above David Leung busts a move (Photo: Ida Fiskaa)

“I was already familiar with [Pakistani] culture, and it was normal to celebrate with them; I was already used to dancing with them,” says Leung, who began teaching at Quick Style Studio in 2011. “That same kind of spirit [at the studio]—it’s a family first, we joke a lot, and we’re really open with each other and to new things.” He adds, pointedly, “It’s not like this everywhere in Norway.” 

The group’s unique dynamic is visible in their YouTube series Sorry Not Sorry, which they started during the pandemic. In each episode, the dancers split into two teams to participate in a dance battle. The challenge set is often dictated by genre, ranging from Bollywood to K-pop to Arabic music and more. Viewers get a glimpse of their humorous interactions as they prepare for the final performance.

Over the years, Quick Style has grown into more than just a dance studio. It is also a space where people can explore interests in other fields, such as film, video, photography or music. Gamborg is an emerging star in the Norwegian music scene, while Egil Mikael, who recently started modelling, sometimes does hybrid dance/modelling jobs.

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Above Rafael Guzman, Egil Mikael, Suleman, David Vu (photo: Ida Fiskaa)

The three founders also encourage their members to explore their creative interests. “We try to [show them] they can do whatever they want,” says Bilal. “We never let them feel that it’s just about dancing. We also tell them to focus on school and studies.”

As children of Asian immigrant families who left Pakistan in the 1970s, the twins are aware of how unusual it is to have had parental support to pursue their passion, rather than more conventional careers. “We always had the freedom of being loved and supported in whatever we wanted to do, even when we weren’t always doing well,” Bilal says. “It’s not easy to allow your kids to pursue something like dance in a foreign country.” He follows up more humorously, “We are all the youngest, so our elder siblings took the role of fulfilling all parental expectations.” 

The group’s philosophy on dance has influenced the way they collaborate and present themselves. Quick Style travelled to Dubai in October 2022 to perform at Coke Studio Live, a concert staged by the eponymous music platform to support emerging artists from Pakistan. Coke Studio is also known to facilitate cross-border musical collaborations that encourage unity and resonance.

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Above Quick Style photographed in Norway (photo: Ida Fiskaa)

In Norway, the troupe works extensively with regionally famed rap duo Karpe, whose fusion sound is supported by a mesh of lyrics in Norwegian, Hindi and Arabic, among other languages. The duo staged ten sold-out concerts in Oslo during summer 2022, and were choreographed by Quick Style. 

One of Karpe’s biggest hits, PAF. No, is a re-mastered version of an old song, Allah, Allah, Ya Baba by Tunisian singer Siddi Mansour, and demonstrates how universally resonant music can be. “Imagine tens of thousands of white people chanting ‘Allah, Allah, Ya Baba’,” Bilal says. “It’s quite a sight.”

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Above Quick Style brotherhood on full display (photo: Ida Fiskaa)

Quick Style and Karpe have announced a European summer tour 2023 aptly called The Diaspora Tour, which promises to showcase more of both their distinct styles. “[Dance] has a huge impact if you do it in the right way, and it’s time for dance to shine,” says Suleman. “You just have to embrace its potential, and I’m glad we show that.”

While they are embracing their newfound popularity, they strive to remain grounded but continue to challenge themselves as dancers. “It’s always a challenge to renew yourself and innovate in a space; in a way that separates you from everyone else,” says Sirikhan. “People like us for who we are, so we don’t need to change with or follow trends. We’re going to keep doing what we do, and pursue the most important things in life: happiness and inclusion. They’re timeless.”

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