I moved to Iceland in May 2001. I was 23, and by this time, a product of working-class Irish Catholicism and Lower East Side punk rock hijinx both, I had already about a solid decade of alcohol abuse under my belt. In Iceland, I found the same attitude towards booze I had been raised with: drink hard, apologise, repeat. I found a culture similar to the one I left behind, I found a whole nation of drinking buddies.
The accordion, or harmonica in Icelandic, has a long history in Iceland, even longer than many might suspect. For decades an Icelandic party wasn’t a decent party without someone pulling out their harmonika, or simply nikka, to keep the music going. Family reunions often had multiple accordion players, and county feasts did not lack them either. Even though its popularity appears to be dwindling in recent years, it has had quite an impact on Icelandic music and culture.
If you were a successful film and TV composer, working with the likes of Hans Zimmer and Mike Post creating scores for some of the US’ biggest films, living in sunny California – would you pack up your whole life and move your family to a town of 18.000 people, just 90 km south of the arctic circle, with no film industry to speak of? That’s exactly what Atli Örvarsson did when he moved back to his hometown Akureyri three years ago. Just a few years ago, that would have meant an end to his career, but in this day and age, anything is possible.
Ólafur Darri is a charming, affable man – it really is no wonder how well he takes to the large screen. He oozes warmth as soon as he enters the coffeehouse, his contagious smile giving life to the room. Even though he is one of Iceland’s most successful actors, Ólafur remains humble in his approach to his roles as well as life. In the midst of shooting the second season of Trapped, Ólafur takes a look back on a career which has spanned countless roles. Having conquered the Icelandic acting scene already, Ólafur is just getting started though.
On March 30, 1949, a large crowd convened behind a school in central Reykjavík. They were protesting the government’s decision to join the North American Treaty Organi¬sation, then in its infancy. Once a sizeable throng had formed, the group marched on Alþingi, Iceland’s parliament. They were met by a group of NATO supporters who had surrounded the parliment building, in¬tending to defend it. A riot erupted between the two groups, who only dispersed after police deployed tear gas. Five days later, NATO was officially formed, with Iceland among its founding members.
In a recent interview, famed musician and producer Brian Eno talks about how he and his friends have started a vocal group. Eno, having produced many of the biggest pop acts on the planet, such as Coldplay, David Bowie, U2 and Talking Heads, has a habit of inviting the frontmen of the bands he’s working with to join the group for an evening of good food, friendly conversation and singing. What Eno has gone on record to note, however, is that the bigger the star invited, the more trouble it tends to be fitting in with his humble choir.
If you venture outside Reykjavík and into the countryside, chances are you’ll come across a group of Icelandic sheep eyeing you suspiciously from the side of the road. Worse still, they could be casually standing in the middle of the road, licking it furiously as if they’re daring you to run them over. Those who witness this seemingly ill-advised activity on behalf of the sheep might be forgiven for assuming that they are perhaps not all there. And surely many Icelanders and travellers alike have done exactly that. But as it turns out, the sheep are licking precious salt from the road and accidents happen rarely enough that they’ve developed a devil-may-care attitude that sometimes rubs anxious drivers the wrong way. But lest we forget, the countryside has historically been the domain of sheep.
Iceland’s immigrant population is growing. Today, over 10% of the country’s population is foreign-born, and that number continues to increase each year. It’s no surprise that Iceland is currently experiencing an influx of new culture, activities, and literature alongside its diversifying population. Part of this change are the inevitable challenges of adjustment and assimilation to a new reality – both on the part of the immigrants who must learn Icelandic and settle into their new home, as well as on the part of native-born Icelanders who are witnessing firsthand a shift in society as it comes to open its doors in new ways. For writers, these challenges extend to a lack of publishing opportunities in the country, as well as issues of underrepresentation.
Ask Iceland Review