Two Wins for Laufey at 2024 Icelandic Music Awards

Bewitched / From the Start

The 2024 Icelandic Music Awards were held at Harpa’s Silfurberg auditorium last night. Twenty-two accolades were distributed, with Grammy-winner Laufey securing wins in two categories.

Elín Hall and PATRi!K among night’s performers

The 2024 Icelandic Music Awards were presented last night at the Silfurberg Auditorium within the Harpa Music and Conference Hall. Among those who took the stage were Elín Hall, Hipsumhaps, Bára Gísladóttir, and PATRi!K. The awards were hosted by Freyr Eyjólfsson.

A total of 22 awards were distributed, including the Honorary Award of the Icelandic Music Awards, received by organist and choir director Hörður Áskelsson, and Best Newcomer, awarded to Kári Egilsson.

Grammy-winner Laufey received two awards: Performer of the Year and Vocal Performance of the Year in the categories of Pop, Rock, Hip Hop, and Electronic.

Here is a list of the winners:

ALBUM OF THE YEAR:

Classical and Contemporary
Atli Heimir Sveinsson: The Complete String Quartets – Siggi String Quartet

Jazz
Innermost – Mikael Máni Ásmundsson

Pop, Rock, Hip Hop, and Electronic
Museum – JFDR

Other
BRIDGES II – Ægir

Film and Theatre
Knock At The Cabin – Herdís Stefánsdóttir

PERFORMER OF THE YEAR:

Jazz
Andrés Þór Gunnlaugsson

Pop, Rock, Hip Hop, and Electronic
Laufey

Classical and Contemporary
Sæunn Þorsteinsdóttir

Other
Mugison

VOCAL PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR:

Jazz
Kristjana Stefánsdóttir

Pop, Rock, Hip Hop, and Electronic
Laufey

Classical and Contemporary
Jóhann Kristinsson

SONG AND COMPOSITION OF THE YEAR:

Other
Wandering Beings – Guðmundur Pétursson

Classical and Contemporary
COR – Bára Gísladóttir

Pop, Rock, Hip Hop, and Electronic
Skína – PATRi!K, Luigi

Jazz
Íslend­ing­ur í Uluwatu­hofi – Stefán S. Stefánsson

MUSIC EVENT OF THE YEAR:

Summer Jazz at Jómfrúin – Jómfrúin and Jakob Einar Jakobsson

PRODUCER OF THE YEAR:

I Am Weary, Don’t Let Me Rest – Snorri Hallgrímsson
Recording Directors: Bergur Þórisson, Cécile Lacharme, Hafsteinn Þráinsson, Martyn Heyne, Snorri Hallgrímsson, Styrmir Hauksson, Viktor Orri Árnason, and Þorsteinn Eyfjörð

LYRICS OF THE YEAR:

Hún ógnar mér – Vigdís Hafliðadóttir

MUSIC VIDEO OF THE YEAR:

Waiting – Árný Margrét
Director: Guðmundur Kristinn Jónsson

BEST NEWCOMER:

Kári Egilsson

HONORARY AWARD:

Hörður Áskelsson

The award for Album Cover of the Year was not presented last night, as the award, bestowed in collaboration with the Association of Icelandic Illustrators (FÍT), will be presented at the FÍT Awards on March 22.

ALBUM COVER OF THE YEAR (NOMINATIONS):

Átta – Sigur Rós: Design: Ragnar Helgi Ólafsson
v2,2 – Róshildur: Design: Þorgeir Kristinn Blöndal
Museum – JFDR: Design: Gréta Thorkelsdóttir and Dóra Dúna
Gleypir tígur, gleypir ljón – Tumi Árnason and Magnús Tryggvason Eliassen: Design: Héðinn Finnsson (Íbbagoggur)
How to Start a Garden – Nanna: Design: Davíð Arnar Baldursson and Ragnar Þórhallsson
Ást & praktík – Hipsumhaps: Design: Viktor Weisshappel Vilhjálmsson

Governor Optimistic About Iceland’s Economy After Wage Deals

Central Bank Ásgeir Jónsson seðlabankastjóri

The recent wage agreements reflect a unified effort, with all parties seemingly unified towards a common goal, the governor of the Central Bank told RÚV this morning. He anticipates a decline in inflation, potentially setting the stage for lower interest rates.

Uncertainty regarding global economic outlooks

This morning, the Central Bank’s Financial Stability Committee presented its semi-annual Financial Stability Report, which, as noted by the Central Bank’s website, presents “an overview of the position of the financial system, its strengths and potential weaknesses, and the macroeconomic and operational risks it may face.”

This newest report indicates, among other things, that interest rates may have peaked in light of the tightening of monetary policy over recent months. There remains, however, significant uncertainty regarding global economic outlooks, not least because of the armed conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine. Furthermore, there has been a slowdown in the growth of the Icelandic tourism sector, with signs that tourists are staying in the country for shorter periods and spending less. The geological unrest on the Reykjanes Peninsula has also had negative effects. Nonetheless, the position of the major commercial banks is strong, and their capital ratios are healthy.

“Headed in the right direction”

In an interview with RÚV this morning, Ásgeir Jónsson, the governor of the Central Bank, stated that things were headed in the right direction:

“In my mind, everything is moving in the right direction. There has been significant economic growth; the Icelandic economy has grown by 20% over three years, from 2021 to 2023, which is a tremendous growth rate. Our goal at the Central Bank in this regard was to keep debt growth low. We wanted to ensure that this boom did not lead to the financial system overreaching or to seeing significant debt accumulation, and we have succeeded,” Ásgeir remarked.

Upbeat about the wage negotiations

As recently reported, collective bargaining agreements have been negotiated with a majority of wage earners in the general market, with the primary goal of reducing inflation and, thereby, interest rates. Ásgeir is sanguine about these agreements:

“I just want to say that these agreements are very positive. We haven’t fully overviewed them yet; they are complex and involve many parties, including the Treasury, and they are not yet concluded. I believe negotiations with the largest union are still pending, as well as various special unions. But the approach has been correct.”

The governor also stated that the agreements proved that everyone was aligned in their efforts, and now it was up to the Central Bank to ensure inflation decreased and the agreements delivered purchasing power to the public. He added that he could not comment on the interest rate as the monetary policy committee was yet to meet; the day of the next interest rate decision is just over a week away. As noted by RÚV, the analysis division of Íslandsbanki Banks predicts a 0.25% point decrease in interest rates, with others having similar expectations. The governor understands these expectations well:

“I understand this well because what we are seeing now is that inflation has decreased – it’s on the right track. The Central Bank predicts it will continue to fall. Likewise, we are seeing the real economy responding, the overheating is cooling down, and a decrease in loan demand. We are witnessing a decline in private consumption, investment, and other things, which suggests that we can start to ease up on the tightening of interest rates.”

The Westfjords, Iceland’s Crown Jewel

Traveling through the winding roads of the Westfjords in Iceland may seem intimidating but during the summer season it is a surprisingly accessible area that is sure to leave an unforgettable impression. The Westfjords are not only breathtaking to look at but they are rich in culture and history that is proudly displayed all along the way. Sprinkled throughout the area are geothermal baths and some true natural wonders that make the Westfjords worthy of their own Ring Road type journey. 

When driving from Reykjavik it’s important to not that the road out west, Vestfjarðavegur nr. 60, deviates from Þjóðvegur 1 highway in Borgarfjörður, and goes up Brattabrekka where it crosses through the small village of Búðardalur before heading into the Westfjords. There are three airports in the area with scheduled domestic flights throughout the summer to Ísafjörður and Bíldudalur, two of the biggest towns, and Gjögur, a non-populated location at the eastern tip of the fjords. A third option for getting to the Westfjords is by ferry from Stykkishólmur to Brjánslækur with a pitstop on the tiny island of Flatey.

The Wild Westfjords

Like most areas in Iceland, the Westfjords were built up around fishing and the unique landscape of the fjords already had natural harbours that people were able to utilize. Although sparsely populated, the Westfjords has a vibrant collection of towns that have adapted well to changing times and aside from fishing and fish farming, the economy of the west is now largely based on tourism. One of the most prominent fjords is Breiðafjörður, a large expance of ocean between Stykkishólmur and the Westfjords, that is home to a number of whale species and birdlife and offers a great opportunity for whale watching. Smaller fjords cut out from Breiðafjörður and in one of them, Vatnsfjörður, is a hidden gem of a geothermal pool, Hellulaug, nestled in a cave just a few steps off the main road. Close by is Hótel Flókalundur, a newly renovated hotel that is a great first stop on the journey through the Westfjords. 

The largest town in the southwest part of the fjords is Patreksfjörður, a short forty five minute drive from Vatnsfjörður, that greets visitors with cozy restaurants like Stúkuhúsið and a brand new community pool that has stunning views across the fjord. Two of the most popular natural highlights of the Westfjords are both in the vicinity of Patreksfjörður; Látrabjarg cliffs, a huge, easily accessible bird cliff where puffins and a number of different bird species nest in the summer and Rauðisandur beach, a ten km long beach of red sand that seems to extend out to the horizon.

Small Towns, Big Nature

A bit further up north from Patreksfjörður is one of the most charming towns in Iceland, Bíldudalur, perfectly situated on the tip of Arnarfjörður. Bíldudalur has a reputation for being blessed with good weather more than any other location in the west and that might explain the jovial vibe of it that immediately makes visitors feel welcome. The town has a certain je nais se quoi element to it that is best experienced in person. It’s a perfect place to stop for soft serve ice cream and a stroll along the harbour. Music is prevalent in the culture of Bíldudalur along with folklore about sea monsters which has sprouted an interactive Monster Museum that is a must see. Not too far from Bíldudalur is Reykjarfjörður-syðri, a camping ground with two seperate natural pools, a structured one that is visible from the road and a slightly less visible one that springs right up through the grassy field. Roughly an hour’s drive north from Bíldudalur is another highlight of the Westfjords, Dynjandi, a breathtaking waterfall with impressive sound effects. 

Photo: Erik. Dynjandi waterfall, an icon of the Westfjords

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traveling north towards the Westfjord’s biggest town, Ísafjörður, are a number of interesting villages worth visiting, including Þingeyri, a bustling fishing village with a world class belgian waffle café and Flateyri (not to be confused with Flatey), a popular place for kayaking with the added bonus of a homely second hand bookstore straight out of a novel. The last town before Ísafjörður is Bolungarvík that sports a natural history museum, a fishing museum and a swimming pool with a thrilling waterslide. A few years ago a huge viewing platform was built on Bolafjall close to the town that offers beautiful views over Ísafjarðardjúp and beyond and is not for the faint of hearts. South of Bolungarvík is the unofficial capital of the Westfjords, Ísafjörður, a town of 2600 people and a place where sky’s the limit when it comes to activities and adventures. It is worth spending a few days in Ísafjörður to fully experience what the area has to offer and for true nature lovers there are few places in Iceland that compare to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve that is a short boat ride away from town. Hornstrandir is a vast speck of land that has never been inhabited by humans and is one of the most popular hiking spots in the country with wild flora and fauna that make it a truly unforgettable experience.

Photo: Erik. Ísafjörður, the largest town in the Westfjords

Something for Everyone

Rounding out the trip through the Westfjords are two towns on the western edge, Hólmavík and Drangsnes. Both towns are small but full of personality and history, especially of the supernatural kind. Hólmavík has its own Magic Museum to recount the history of witchcraft in Iceland, but witch-hunting was especially prevalent in the Hólmavík area in the 17th century. Drangsnes is further out west and although it has a proper swimming pool in town, the real reason to visit are the hot tubs down by the ocean side with uninterrupted views of the surrounding fjord.

Ultimately, the Westfjords are a place that should be a staple on any Iceland itinerary. It’s an endlessly versatile area where everyone can find activities to enjoy, from fishing in serene lakes and rivers, to horseback riding with locals through remarkable nature. Around every corner is a new surprise and no matter how long the stay, the Westfjords are a place that will leave visitors wanting to come back for more.

Palestinians No Longer Priority for Family Reunification

Palestine protest February 5 2024

On Monday, the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration decided that Palestinians will no longer be given priority in the application system for family reunifications. This decision was made in consultation with the Ministry of Justice.

Prioritisation was a "temporary measure"

Since mid-October, the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration has prioritised Palestinian citizens’ applications for family reunification. The decision was made after the Israeli army started attacks on Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Applications for family reunification from citizens of other origins were consequently pushed back in the queue.

Now, the Minister for Justice, Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir, says that the priority of Palestinian applications was always meant to be a temporary measure and that the increase in waiting time for other applicants is no longer justifiable. 

Just last week72 Palestinians arrived in Iceland after representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs assisted Icelandic residence permit holders in Gaza to leave with the approval of Egyptian and Israeli officials. These people were then escorted from the border town of Rafah into Egypt, from where they travelled to Iceland.

Many Palestinian applications still pending

When the decision was made, about 150 applications for family reunification from Palestinian citizens were pending in the Directorate of Immigration, half of which were older than six months. Since October, 160 residence permits based on family reunification have been granted for Palestinian refugees. 

Currently, 20 applications from Palestinian citizens are still being processed, while many more applications from Palestinians do not fall under the right to family reunification. Apart from this, about 320 citizens of other countries are waiting for the processing of their family reunification grants, mainly from Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile the protection of mass migration of Ukrainians was extended until February 2025. Minister for Justice Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir says that Iceland made the decision to align with other European countries and the neighbouring Nordic countries. 

Who is eligible for a residence permit based on family reunification?

Residence permits based on family reunification can be granted to the closest relatives of a person residing in Iceland, who also has the right to family reunification

According to the Directorate of Immigration, closest relatives are spouses, cohabiting partners, children under the age of 18, and parents aged 67 and over. 

The right to family reunification is reserved for Icelandic citizens, Nordic citizens and foreign citizens with permanent residence permits. Holders of temporary residence permits obtain the right under certain circumstances, for instance, if they are under international protection, students or specialised workers.