Members of Pussy Riot Currently in Iceland

Russian political activist and member of performance art group Pussy Riot Maria Alyokhina is currently in Iceland. Alyokhina fled Russia after the country’s authorities announced that her house arrest would be converted to a 21-day sentence in a penal colony. Alyokhina told the New York Times she hopes to return to Russia.

Alyokhina is currently in Iceland along with other members of Pussy Riot, who are rehearsing for an upcoming European tour. Alyokhina herself first fled her home country for Belorussia, where her first two attempts to cross the border into Lithuania were unsuccessful. The Times reports that Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson played a part in securing a travel document from a European country for Alyokhina, which helped her successfully board a bus for Lithuania.

Sveinn H. Guðmarsson, communications officer at Iceland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed to RÚV that the band members are in Iceland as refugees, but declined to provide further information. The band plans to perform in Iceland this fall.

Sóley and Bára Nominated for Nordic Council Music Prize

Sóley Stefánsdóttir musician

Icelandic musicians Sóley Stefánsdóttir (above) and Bára Gísladóttir (below) have been nominated for the 2022 Nordic Council Music Prize. This year’s nominees represent a wide range of genres from world music and opera to electronic music.

Sóley has been nominated for her 2021 album Mother Melancholia. In their rationale, the jury describes the album as “a work of the utmost originality, in reality one long meditation on the state of the world, gravitating between pretty and horrific.”

In an interview with Iceland Review Sóley described Mother Melancholia as being about apocalypse. “We can’t really imagine what happens at the end of the world. It’s an abstract idea. Especially when you live here in Iceland and have your house and your computer and your day-to-day life. I’ve been reading some dystopian Margret Atwood novels and thinking ‘wow, maybe it’ll be like this.’ Maybe that’s the role of artists: to create, draw, paint, try to imagine it.”

Photo: Gabrielle Motola. Bára Gísladóttir.

Bára Gísladóttir is a double bassist and composer based in Copenhagen, Denmark. She was nominated for her piece VÍDDIR, written for nine flutes, percussion, double bass, and electric bass. The Nordic Council Music Prize jury called her compositions “highly creative and uncompromising,” calling VÍDDIR an “enthralling” work where Bára “shapes the sounds and structure of the music in an organic way with focus on textural and timbral progressions through various portals of possibilities of the instruments.”

The winner of the Nordic Council Music Prize will be announced on November 1 in Helsinki, Finland.

Coast Guard Helicopter Unmanned Due to Pilot Shortage

TF-GRÓ Icelandic Coast Guard Helicopter

For one third of the year, the Icelandic Coast Guard has only one helicopter crew on duty, RÚV reports. Yesterday morning the helicopter could not be manned to respond to a serious accident due to staff illness. Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson says the situation is unacceptable and wants to increase the number of helicopter pilots.

One or two crews on duty

A serious traffic accident occurred under the Eyjafjöll mountain range in South Iceland just after 11:00 AM yesterday morning. One person was in the car and they were transported to the National University Hospital in Reykjavík for treatment. Since it was not possible to man the helicopter crew, the injured person had to be transported by ambulance – making the trip one and a half hours longer than it would have been by helicopter.

Ásgeir Erlendsson, communications officer of the Icelandic Coast Guard, says that for two thirds of the year, the Coast Guard has two crews on call, but for one third of the year, there is just a single crew on duty. In the past, illness or other staffing challenges have been solved by calling in staff who were off duty. That was, however, not possible yesterday.

Plans to hire more pilots

The situation that occurred yesterday morning is not acceptable, Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson told reporters. “Such incidents should not occur and we will try to do everything we can to prevent this from happening again,” he stated. Jón pointed out that the government budget outlines an increase in funding to the Coast Guard so that the number of shifts can be increased from six to seven. The government updated the helicopter fleet last year and the number of crews was increased from five to six. “It is no secret that with more crews it would be possible to increase the response capacity even further,” Ásgeir stated.

Unrelated to wage dispute

The Coast Guard’s pilots have been without a valid collective agreement for almost two and a half years. The pilots assert that complying with the Ministry of Finance’s requirements would impact aviation safety. The Ministry has denied those claims. The manning of the helicopter crew yesterday is unrelated to the wage dispute.

Iceland Qualifies for Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final

The Icelandic sisters Sigga, Beta, and Elín qualified for the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2022 in the first leg of the semifinals in Torino yesterday.

They were the 14th act out of 17 to take the stage and delivered a rousing performance of their song Með hækkandi sól. Ten countries’ contributions from last night will go on to compete in the Grand Final next Saturday: Switzerland, Norway, Armenia, Greece, Iceland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Moldova, Portugal, and the Netherlands. Which ten songs will join them from the other semi-final events remains to be seen this Thursday.

This is the third Eurovision Song Contest running that Iceland moves on from the semi-final, with memorable performances by bondage-themed anti-capitalist group Hatari and the irresistible six foot, nine inches tall pop sensation Daði Freyr with his band Gagnamagnið.

The sisters, and their brother who is a part of Iceland’s delegation despite not joining his sisters onstage, were on the verge of tears when the news had been announced. In an interview with RÚV, they stated that they were lucky and grateful for all the support they had received. Beta jokingly stated that when the news was announced, she almost lost her voice from screaming.

Let’s hope not as she’ll need it on Saturday when the sisters will perform Með hækkandi sól in the 2022 Torino Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final. Icelanders will be glued to their tv screens next Saturday as following the Eurovision Grand Final, RÚV will broadcast the results of an election that’s almost as important, Iceland’s municipal elections.