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18.01

Katrín Jakobsdóttir
Interview

New Brooms Sweep Clean

Iceland hasn’t had much luck with prime ministers for the past few years. Try as we might, we can’t seem to get them to stay. They say doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity, so this time, we’re trying something different. Katrín Jakobsdóttir is the third youngest prime […]

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Húrra music venue
Culture

Testing, One, Two, Three…

I’m standing in the lobby of Hlemmur Square, a hotel and hostel in downtown Reykjavík. All around me, tourists pore over maps, drink beers, and happily discuss their traveling plans. Yes, they are going whale watching in the morning. Yes, that Icelandic beer they’re drinking is delicious, and no, they don’t seem to be listening to the ambient music that streams from a set of speakers in the corner.

Between the speakers stands Nicolas Kunysz, musician and co-owner of independent music label Lady Boy Records. A guitar lies on a table in front of him, and he intermittently strokes the strings whilst fiddling with electronic effects boxes strewn around him. The resulting sound is more akin to a gentle cloud than guitar music, but it’s entrancing. As expressed by its progenitor Brian Eno, ambient music’s core philosophy is that it should be “as interesting as it is ignorable.” But standing here amidst the tourists, whose chatter is threatening to drown out Nicolas’ tender music completely, one wonders if ambient music has been demoted to “just ignorable.”

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Stand-up comedian Ari Eldjárn
Culture

“Comedy is My Only Plan”

For a few days at the end of December, the most popular event in Reykjavík was Ari Eldjárn’s Áramótaskop. The year-in-review stand-up comedy show was a hit with audiences, and despite the limited time frame, a few days between Christmas and the New Year, Ari put on several sold-out shows in one of the biggest […]

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Kaldrananes - Bjarnarfirði Ströndum
Magazine

Kaldrananes

Bjarnarfjörður á Ströndum is about as far off the beaten path as you can imagine. On sunny summer days, the area is full of life. Year-round residences turned summer houses fill up with vacationing city folk, and there’s a steady traffic of tourists on their way to the Strandir trails. During winter, however, the roads are impassable, and most of the houses are empty. Kaldrananes, an isolated farm, whose name in Icelandic implies chilliness and inhospitality, is one of the few farms occupied all year round.

The shortest day of the year is an important one for the inhabitants of Kaldrananes. Two houses stand on the grounds along with a sheepcote, an old church, and a large, decaying freezing plant, ambitiously built shortly after WWII but only in use for a few years. One of the houses is empty; its only use is as a vacation home. The owners don’t live in the area, and the place can be rented through Airbnb. In the other house, Ingi and Birna are awaiting the arrival of their daughter, Alda, who’s joining them for one of the most important tasks of the year. It’s time for the sheep’s mating season to commence.

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1973, eldgosið í Heymaey, Vestmannaeyjum. Gosið í fullum gangi, gosefni þeytast upp úr gígnum á Eldfelli. Í forgunni eru tvö íbúðarhús.
Looking Back

“The Earth Ripped Apart”

It is a cold January night, 23rd day of the month, and most of the inhabitants of Heimaey are already sleeping. The radiogrammer Hjálmar Guðnason had asked his friend Ólafur Granz to accompany him on his daily midnight walk. The two friends were the first to spot the eruption. A 1600-metre long volcanic fissure had opened up on the east side of Heimaey, only 200 metres away from Hjálmar and Ólafur. It was a literal wall of fire, that would come to engulf a large portion of the island in the coming months. They alerted police instantly, and the sceptic policemen were in no hurry to make their way to the scene of what they believed to be a prank call. Once they witnessed the eruption, they wasted no time. Tephra and ash spread around the island in a matter of minutes, while the townspeople rushed to evacuate the island. When the dust settled, the eruption had destroyed over 400 buildings, and to this day, the island still has fewer residents than before the eruption.

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Magazine

Mental Nutrition

Superfoods can nourish both body and soul as Thelma Björk Jónsdóttir is well aware. The multitasker is both an acclaimed yoga teacher as well as a fashion designer. She spearheads the Slökun í borg (Relax in the city) project, which aims to discover calm in everyday life’s strife.

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Culture

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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Zahra Mesbah
Magazine

The New Settlers of Iceland

Resettlement refers to refugees transferred from an asylum country to a state that has agreed to receive them and grant a permanent settlement. The first group of refugees to arrive as part of the resettlement program were 52 individuals from Hungary in 1956. Since then, individuals have come from states that were part of the former Yugoslavia. Groups have arrived from Colombia as well, while in recent times, Iceland has received groups of Syrian refugees, as 56 individuals arrived in 2016 while 47 did so in 2017. The Icelandic state did not receive more than ten resettlement refugees in the years following the financial crash of 2008, as it slowed down its acceptance rate dramatically. However, the state has indicated that it will start to receive more resettlement refugees in the coming years.

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Culture

Folktales From the Fog

I met singer-songwriter Snorri Helgason at a cosy Reykjavík café on a dark, windy January day. The weather seemed appropriate for our chat, which focused on his newest album, Margt býr í þokunni (Much Lives in the Fog), a labour of love four years in the making.

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