I’ve Never Gone North

ísafjörður road

Our camper van is eating up kilometres as we drive north into the Westfjords. It’s the middle of March, and though in climes less far-flung that means springtime, up here it is still very much winter. An observer may well ask – why drive to the edge of the Arctic Circle, in March, in a […]

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Deep North Episode 69: Melting Hearts

Ice Guys boyband

Jón Jónsson had the idea for Ice Guys in early 2023.

It all began as a kind of a joke.

He was, after all, 38 years old and probably a bit too long in the tooth to start a boy band.

But, despite his advanced age – in boy-band years, that is – he still had his boyish good looks and those teeth, no matter how long, would become the focal point of a Colgate Christmas campaign later that year.

Besides, Jón had a slew of popular singles to his name and years of experience in the Icelandic music business.

So why not?

Read the article here.

Chasing Ghosts

icelandic musician laufey

RUMOURS “Not a dry eye in sight, I tell ya,” Ísleifur Þórhallsson proclaims, standing near the ticket desk inside the Harpa Music and Conference Hall in Reykjavík. “Shoulda seen it!” He’s referring to the poignancy of last night’s Laufey concert, the first of three at Harpa. The final concert – added this January due to high […]

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Singer Ásdís Pops in Germany

Singer Ásdís María Viðarsdóttir

Ásdís María Viðarsdóttir, known professionally as Ásdís, has become a mainstay of the Germany pop charts and performed at the Brandenburg Gate to ring in the new year.

In a radio interview with Rás 2 this weekend, the singer discussed her career, with an upcoming supporting gig for pop star Zara Larsson in Reykjavík and two songwriting credits in Söngvakeppnin, the Icelandic Eurovision preliminaries. “It’s mostly been an incredibly good journey, but also an incredible amount of work,” she said.

Musical influence from her family

Ásdís has been performing publicly since she was young with her first big gig coming in the upper secondary school song competition, which she won in 2013. Growing up in the Breiðholt neighbourhood of Reykjavík, she credits her older siblings as musical influences. “I know I was a real brat, because as fun as I think it is to sing, it’s even more fun to talk,” she said.

Her father was her biggest supporter in music and after he passed away in 2016, she decided to take the leap and move to Berlin to study music. “It was his biggest dream that I become Elvis,” she said, adding that moving away from her mother to another country has been difficult.

Gold record hits

After seven years in Berlin, she’s made a career for herself as a songwriter and performer in Germany’s pop music industry, earning multiple gold records for her hits. Her recent songs include “Beat of Your Heart” with Grammy award-winning DJ and producer Purple Disco Machine, while her televised New Year’s Eve performance at Brandenburg Gate was an added honour.

She said that she felt that her career was on the right track these days and that she enjoys performing. “It’s been a through line in my life and I’ve come to understand now that I have to do it, especially in light of my upbringing,” she said. “If not for me, then for my parents.”

Iceland Airwaves Announces First Acts of 2024

Iceland Airwaves 2022

Iceland’s largest music festival, Iceland Airwaves, announced the first acts of its 2024 lineup today. They include local acts such as Klemens Hannigan (of Hatari fame), Inspector Spacetime, and Úlfur Úlfur, as well as acts from eight other countries. The festival will take place in Reykjavík from November 7-9, 2024.

This year will mark Iceland Airwaves’ 25th anniversary. The first-ever Airwaves festival was held in an aeroplane hangar at Reykjavík Airport and was initially meant to be a one-off event. While it is 25 years since the festival was first held, it is not the 25th edition of the festival: Airwaves was called off in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first lineup announcement includes 9 Icelandic acts and, as usual, focuses mostly on up-and-coming local artists such as lúpína and K.óla. Foreign artists include Shygirl (UK), UCHE YARA (AU) and Saya Gray (CA).

The announced artists can be heard on the Iceland Airwaves 2024 Spotify playlist below.

Icelandic Musician Laufey Wins Grammy

Icelandic Musician Laufey has won the 2024 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for her album Bewitched. The nominees in her category included Bruce Springsteen and Pentatonix. Rather than resting on her laurels, the jazz singer-songwriter is setting off on a Europe tour.

“I never in a million years thought that this would happen,” Laufey said in her acceptance speech at the 66th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles last night. She thanked her team, parents, grandparents, and the classical and jazz communities of the world, reserving the “biggest thanks” for her twin sister Junia, whom she called her “biggest supporter.”

Broke streaming records

Bewitched set a record for the most streams in the jazz category on Spotify on its day of release, accumulating 5.7 million streams. The previous record was held by Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett’s 2021 album Love for Sale, which received 1.1 million streams on its first day.

In an interview with Billboard following the awards ceremony, Laufey called the honour “very validating and exciting.” Laufey left the US today to start a Europe tour of the music from Bewitched, which will be followed by a North American tour later this spring.

A musical nation

Laufey was not the only Icelander nominated for a Grammy this year. Musician Ólafur Arnalds was nominated for his album Some Kind of Peace (Piano Reworks) in the Best New Age, Ambient, or Chant Album category. Ólafur has been nominated twice before.

A few other Icelanders have won Grammy awards in the past, including composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, who has won twice, and classical singer Dísella Lárusdóttir. Björk’s album Biophilia won in the category of Best Recording Package in 2013, but the musician has never taken home a statue from any of her other 15 Grammy nominations.

Fiddling with Perfection

Hans Jóhannsson icelandic luthier

It was half past four on a Sunday afternoon inside the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre in Reykjavík.Three-hundred-and-sixty chairs, nearly all of them occupied, had been arranged in meticulous fashion within the Norðurljós auditorium. Twenty-five musicians, tickling four different kinds of stringed instruments, were performing Richard Strauss’ Metamorphoses on stage. And two people, who […]

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Icelandic Musicians Perform for Palestine

concert for Palestine

Páll Óskar, JFDR, Úlfur Úlfur, and Cyber will be performing at a solidarity and fundraising concert for Palestine in Reykjavík’s Gamla Bíó tonight, November 16. The concert is organised by the Association Iceland-Palestine and hosted by actress Þuríður Blær. All proceeds go to relief efforts in Gaza.

A press release from the association states that 11,320 people, including 4,650 children, have been killed in the Israeli Army’s air raids since the Hamas terrorist attack on Israeli civilians on October 7. It goes on to describe the situation created by Israel’s block of transport of water, food, fuel, and medicine as well as the bombing of hospitals, schools, and refugee camps. “It has never been more important to show solidarity with the Palestinian nation than it is right now. We are really proud and thankful for all of the great people who have contributed to holding this awesome concert,” the notice reads.

Protests for Palestine

The Association goes on to encourage the international community and the Icelandic government to respond to the situation in Gaza by cutting diplomatic ties with Israel and boycotting Israeli products, as well as calling for an immediate ceasefire.

Locals in Iceland have been holding regular protests condemning Israel’s attacks on Gaza as well as the Icelandic government’s response to the crisis. Iceland abstained from voting on a ceasefire in Gaza at an emergency meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in October. The Icelandic Parliament has since unanimously passed a resolution condemning violence against civilians and calling for adherence to international laws.

Fundraising dinner

Before the event, Palestinians living in Iceland are inviting the public to a fundraising dinner in solidarity and support of the people of Gaza. The Association Iceland-Palestine encourages those who are unable to come to the concert but want to support the cause to donate to their humanitarian relief efforts by making a transfer to the following account number: 542-26-6990, Kennitala: 520188-1349 (explanation “tonleikar”).

Heart to Heart

Kristján Kristjánsson

Every now and then, when I turn on the radio and tune into the National Broadcasting Service in the morning, they’re playing something a little different. A 40s country song, a patriotic hymn sung by an Icelandic choir, someone moaning the heart out of a blues song, or even a traditional chant of the old […]

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Iceland Symphony Orchestra Strike Narrowly Avoided

Iceland Symphony Orchestra in Eldborg Hall

The Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the state have settled their wage dispute. Agreements were signed at the state mediator’s office yesterday evening at 7:00 PM, just in time to call off a musicians’ strike that was set to begin today. The dispute was referred to the state mediator last June.

According to a government notice, the state mediator and the negotiation committee have placed great emphasis on the involvement of the Ministry of Culture to resolve the dispute. The Ministry of Culture and Trade has proposed that the Symphony Orchestra receive additional funding in the coming years to cover the costs of salary increases and strengthen workplace culture.

Operations have been challenging for the Iceland Symphony Orchestra in recent years, not least due to the coronavirus pandemic. The notice also states that it was clear that a strike would impact the orchestra’s ability to meet its obligations and its possibilities of earning income.

When the Band Began to Play: 70 Years of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra

“The Icelandic Symphony Orchestra pays a key role in Icelandic musical life. It is therefore gratifying that an agreement has been reached,” stated Minister of Culture and Trade Lilja Alfreðsdóttir. “A strike could have had a significant negative impact on cultural life in the country.”

The Iceland Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1950 and has been a central figure of Iceland’s musical landscape since. The orchestra has received two Grammy nominations. Read more about the orchestra in Iceland Review Magazine.