Looking Back: The Fateful Year of 1918

Some years in history are simply more important than others. 1918 is carved into the history annals of Iceland, and rightly so. It proved to be a year of change as the nation took its first step from being an underdeveloped colony to today’s developed country. A century later, we look back on a year of the Great Winter of Frost, the Spanish Flu, the Katla volcanic eruption, and Iceland’s sovereignty.

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To Hell: At Sigur Rós’ Norður og Niður Festival

An Icelandic artist is standing on a makeshift stage in Harpa concert hall and conference centre. Clad in a poncho and Gandalf hat, he has been given the task of introducing indie choir Kórus on stage as a part of the opening ceremony of Norður og niður (“to Hell”), Sigur Rós’ music festival held last December at Harpa. The thing is, the artist can’t see the choir, standing patiently in the staircase opposite him (perhaps they’re obscured by his enormous hat?), so he fumbles on with the introduction in English so broken that at one point someone is heard asking “What the hell is he talking about?” What the hell, indeed! Norður og Niður literally translates as “north and down”, but more colloquially it might be translated as “to hell” or even “go to hell”.

Eventually, the host sees the choir waving and nervously introduces them twice more, further confusing everyone. Luckily, he has been blessed with a most amiable crowd of Sigur Rós fans and music-loving introverts, so whatever dismay we may be feeling as a result of the opening ceremony’s incoherence, we’re silently internalising it while listening to the ethereal Kórus and drinking patented Sigur Rós beer. For some people, this might be hell, but for lovers of the Sigur Róss unique quirk and charm, it’s quite the opposite.

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