Iceland Places Last in Eurovision Song Contest

A screenshot from RÚV. Hera Björk during the Söngvakeppnin final, March 2, 2024

The final result of the Eurovision Song Contest revealed that Iceland’s entry received the fewest points of all participating songs. Singer Hera Björk performed the song Scared of Heights at the first semi-final on 7 May and did not advance, as she received only three points, RÚV reports.

This was Hera Björk’s second time competing for Iceland. In 2010, she finished 19th with her song Je ne sais quoi.

Controversy in Iceland and abroad

Switzerland won the contest last night with Nemo’s entry The Code. Croatia placed second and Ukraine third. The event took place in Sweden this year.

The contest was mired in controversy, both within Iceland and abroad. In the Iceland preliminary competition, Söngvakeppnin, glitches in the voting app triggered an inquiry into the results.

Hera Björk’s songwriter, Ásdís María Viðarsdóttir, withdrew from the competition, citing uncertainty about the results and Israel’s ongoing military action in Gaza. The Icelandic Association of Composers and Lyricists asked its members not to participate in the show unless Israel was banned.

Protests at the contest

Israel’s participation was criticised by multiple performers in the finals and by protestors outside the Malmö venue. Many have cited the precedent when Russia was excluded from the competition two years ago following their invasion of Ukraine.

The Dutch competitor, Joost Klein, was disqualified for alleged inappropriate behaviour towards a Eurovision staffer.

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Over 13% of Icelanders Live Abroad

Tenerife elderly senior Spain

Over 13% of Icelandic citizens live abroad, according to the latest figures from Registers Iceland. While 324,193 Icelanders live in Iceland, 49,870 live outside of the country. About three-fifths of Icelandic emigrants live in other Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland). RÚV reported first.

Denmark tops the list for relocation

Denmark, Iceland’s former coloniser, is the most popular country for Icelanders to relocate to, with 11,982 Icelandic citizens living there currently. This represents 24% of all Icelanders who live abroad or nearly one-quarter. Norway and Sweden are in second and third place, home to 9,250 and 9,046 Icelanders respectively.

Number of Icelanders living abroad growing

The US and UK round out the top five, with 6,583 Icelanders living in the United States and 2,518 in the United Kingdom. Over 900 Icelanders live in Spain, a popular vacation destination for Icelandic citizens. In most of the top 15 countries on the list, the number of Icelandic residents has been steadily increasing. The same is true of the number of Icelandic citizens living abroad in general. In 2004, they numbered 29,591, and at the end of 2023, they numbered 49,870.

It bears noting that Iceland’s population has also grown in recent years, though not as much as previously believed.


Milk Cartons to Be Recycled in Sweden

recycling in iceland

After an investigative report revealed that recyclable milk cartons from Iceland were being shipped to a cement factory in Europe to be incinerated, the Icelandic Recycling Fund and SORPA have decided to send Tetra Pak cartons to Fiskeby Board in Sweden for proper recycling. An independent party will also be appointed to monitor the implementation to ensure adequate recycling.

Shipped to Sweden

As reported Monday, an investigative report by Heimildin found that SORPA – the municipal association for waste management – was shipping recyclable milk cartons to a cement factory in Europe to be incinerated.

After the story broke, the Icelandic Recycling Fund and Sorpa released a public statement saying that they would modify protocols; Tetra Pak cartons would henceforth be sent to the company Fiskeby Board in Sweden to ensure that recycling was carried out correctly and would deliver the expected results.

“The Recycling Fund and SORPA jointly intend to obtain assurance that the recycling party that will from now on receive containers from SORPA will deliver the expected results,” the statement reads. The statement further notes that the decision had been taken following the discovery that Smurfit Kappa, SORPA’s paper recycling partner, could not recycle cartons in its processing plants.

A meeting with Guðlaugur Þór

The press release also notes that representatives from the Icelandic Recycling Fund and SORPA had met with Guðlaug Þór Þórðarson, Minister of the Environment, Energy and Climate, yesterday. The upshot of the meeting was that the Icelandic Recycling Fund and SORPA would appoint an independent party to monitor the implementation and confirm adequate recycling.

“The Recycling Fund has required other service providers, Terra and Íslenska gámafélagið, who have collected the milk cartons for recycling, for confirmation that adequate recycling has taken place abroad. Information is expected to arrive in the coming days.”

The press release concludes by stating that the Icelandic Recycling Fund had recently revised its terms and conditions vis-à-vis the fund’s service providers to ensure traceability and knowledge of the final disposal of the waste covered by the fund.

Sail from Sweden to Iceland to Mark 250th Anniversary of Scientific Expedition

Solander 250 Embassy of Sweden in Reykjavík

The year 2022 marks 250 years since the Swedish botanist Daniel Solander made a scientific expedition to Iceland. To commemorate the expedition, the Embassy of Sweden has collaborated with Icelandic partners to organise a sailing trip, an art exhibition, workshops, nature walks, and other projects that will be held at over 30 locations across Iceland over the next one and a half years.

“Together Iceland and Sweden continue a dialogue on history, biology, geology, anthropology and culture which has spanned over many centuries. The project deals with our common past, present and future,” Sweden’s Ambassador to Iceland Pär Ahlberger told Iceland Review. “I am very grateful to the Government of Iceland and our more than 30 Icelandic partners for the very generous support to this, the most comprehensive Swedish – Icelandic project ever.”

Daniel Solander (1733-1782) was a Swedish naturalist who studied under celebrated professor of botany Carl Linnaeus. He travelled as far as Australia and New Zealand for scientific expeditions, where he helped make and describe collections of plants from various regions.

Solander visited Iceland in 1772. A travelogue from the expedition, Letters on Iceland, first published in 1777, is available in full on the Icelandic National Library website.

Icelandic artists interpret Solander’s expedition

One of the cornerstones of the commemorative project is the art exhibition Solander 250: Bréf frá Íslandi (e. Solander 250: Letters from Iceland), which features the work of ten Icelandic artists who contribute with their perspectives of Daniel Solander’s expedition to Iceland. The exhibition opens in Hafnarborg gallery in the town of Hafnarfjörður on August 27, but will travel to nine other locations in Iceland over the coming 18 months.

The exhibition Paradise Lost – Daniel Solander’s Legacy, first exhibited in New Zealand and Australia in 2019-2021 and focusing on the first encounter between Sweden and the Pacific Region, will be shown across Iceland alongside Bréf frá Íslandi.

Other events that will be part of the commemorative project include musical performances and educational events.

Nordic Bishops Gather for Conference in Akureyri, Discuss ‘the Church in a Changing World’

Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir.

The Nordic Bishops’ Conference took place in Akureyri, North Iceland this week, RÚV reports. Forty-five bishops were in attendance. Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir, Bishop of Iceland, says that gatherings such as this one, where attendees can share their experiences and learn from one another, are important for the work of the church.

The conference is held every three years in one of the five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden). Agnes was among the organizers of this year’s event.

“There’s always a theme that we lay out and have lectures about,” she explained. This year, the theme was the church in a changing world because “naturally, a lot has changed.”

The theme was intentionally broad, giving the bishops an opportunity to discuss, among other things, climate change, democracy, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the war in Ukraine. Agnes says it’s important for the Nordic bishops to meet regularly “because we have many common issues and most of the ones we’re dealing with are the same everywhere, so we need to fortify ourselves and together, find ways of responding to all the changes that are taking place.”

Antje Jackelén, Archbishop of Sweden, agrees. “It’s important to meet for personal reasons. Bishops need to gather and exchange experience,” she said. “Our churches have much in common so we’re familiar with each other’s work, but they are also different in ways that makes the conference inspiring and exciting. From the church’s point of view, the conference is important because we in the Nordic countries need to work together to strengthen our actions and grow together spiritually.”

Iceland Would Support Finland Joining NATO, Prime Minister Says

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland

Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has stated that the country would support Finland and Sweden if they decide to join NATO, RÚV reports. Support for Finland joining NATO has more than doubled among the general public since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. Katrín stated that Iceland’s Security Council is updating its risk assessment for Iceland.

Katrín stated that the re-evaluation is “Based on both the events in Ukraine and what could possibly follow: that is, the possible accession of Finland and Sweden to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. So this work is ongoing.”

Katrín travelled to Finland earlier this month, where she met with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin (pictured above). The two leaders discussed “Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, the European security situation and deepening Nordic cooperation,” according to a tweet from the Finnish government.

When asked about Russia’s potential reaction to Finland and Sweden joining NATO, Katrín stated: “We see that they do not take this well in public discussion. But the way I look at it the Finns and Swedes make their decisions and we will stand with them in their decisions.”

Impostor Syndrome: Fake Artists Posing as Icelandic Musicians on Spotify

Björk Guðmundsdóttir musician

Minister of Culture Lilja Alfreðsdóttir will meet with the CEO of Spotify this week to discuss the proliferation of “fake artists” posing as Icelandic musicians on the music streaming platform, RÚV reports. She says Spotify has thus far ignored requests to remove the impostors, which is costing real Icelandic artists a substantial amount of potential revenue.

During the meeting, Lilja intends to discuss the seriousness of this matter with the streaming service and fight for real Icelandic musicians to get the exposure and revenue they deserve. “The whole landscape has changed so much with streaming services and this can be a positive thing in some ways, but there are negative sides, too, and this is clearly one of them,” she said. “I believe our musicians deserve more for their efforts and I intend to say so. I understand that people think Iceland is cool, but this [appreciation] can’t be [performed] in such a way that our musicians’ earnings go down. That’s out of the question, in my mind.”

The Swedish Connection

The phenomenon of so-called ‘fake artists’ on Spotify has caused considerable consternation within the international music scene for years. Fake artists are the inventions of a small number of individual music producers and/or record companies that create untraceable pseudonyms with little-to-no digital footprint, and then mass-produce songs that are added to Spotify’s popular playlists. Playlists encourage song play and Spotify revenues are, of course, paid according to the number of plays an artist receives. Therefore, fake artists funnel streaming profits to a select few entities and deprive actual working musicians of their already scant streaming royalties.

A recent report by Swedish paper Dagens Nyheter discovered that Firefly Entertainment, a Swedish record label whose management appears to have close personal ties with a former Spotify executive, boasts a roster of over 800 fake artists, nearly 500 of whom are found on key Spotify playlists. Per Music Business Worldwide: “DN also discovered–via the register of Swedish publishing body STIM–that music from over 500 of these “fake artists” have been created by just 20 songwriters. The publication says it even found one composer who is the creator of songs for no less than 62 fake artists on Spotify; his music is currently attracting 7.7 million listeners on the service each month.” (Read Music Business Worldwide’s latest reporting on this developing story, in English, here.)

RÚV reports that a number of Firefly Entertainment’s fake artists are reputedly Icelandic. These Icelandic impostors then appear on a number of Iceland-themed playlists and thereby cash in on the country’s cachet as a nature- and music-lover’s paradise.

Ekfat the Fake “Icelandic Beatmaker”

One particularly egregious example of Firefly’s undercover antics is a fake artist going by the moniker Ekfat, whose song “Polar Circle” has generated over 3.52 million listens. According to the artist bio on Spotify, Ekfat is the pseudonym of “upcoming Icelandic beatmaker” Guðmundur Gunnarsson, who has been “part of the legendary Smekkleysa Lo-Fi Rockers crew since 2017.”

But in reality, no such musician exists and neither does his “legendary crew,” although Smekkleysa Lo-Fi Rockers is undoubtedly a play on the real (and actually iconic) Smekkleysa SM, or Bad Taste Records, which launched Björk’s career, among others. And yet, until recently, Ekfat could apparently be found on the Spotify-created playlist “Lo-Fi House.” (At time of writing, Spotify showed that Ekfat was supposed to be featured on this playlist, but no song by the artist appears on the playlist anymore.)

Real Icelandic Music from Real Icelandic Artists

Some of Iceland Music’s Verified Icelandic Playlists on Spotify

Luckily for Icelandic music enthusiasts, there’s an easy way to find and support real Icelandic musicians on Spotify. Iceland Music, an organization that promotes and exports music from Iceland, has created a number of playlists on both Spotify and Apple Music, all of which are populated with verified songs and musicians from Iceland. These include a playlist of new music from Iceland, which is updated on a weekly basis, as well as playlists of ‘atmospheric’ songs, contemporary classical music, music by Icelandic women, Icelandic hip hop, metal, electronic, and more. (Icelandic artists who want to have their music added to these verified playlists can request so here.)

More on Icelandic musicians and streaming platforms in our latest issue.

Verbúðin Wins Big at Göteborg Film Festival

Icelandic TV series Verbúðin (English title: Blackport) won the 2022 Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize at the Göteborg Film Festival this week, RÚV reports. The award is given for “outstanding writing of a Nordic drama series” and is accompanied by a prize of NOK 200,000 [ISK 2.85 million; $22,824]. This year’s nominees included Countrymen (Norway; written by Izer Aliu, Anne Bjørnstad), Transport (Finland; written by Auli Mantila), The Shift (Denmark; written by Lone Scherfig), and Vi i villa (Sweden; written by Tove Eriksen Hillblom).

Set in the Westfjords in the 1980s, the story follows a married couple, Harpa and Grimur, as they build a small fishing empire along with their childhood friends. But with the introduction of a new quota system in the country, where the fishing grounds are privatised, the struggle for power results in a feud of jealousy, greed and betrayal.

Hailed as the buzziest TV series to come out of Iceland since Trapped, Verbúðin has indeed already garnered a great deal of international interest, despite the fact that it has not yet been widely broadcast for the international public. Vesturport produced the show for RÚV in Iceland and Arte France, and has production backing from the UK’s Turbine Studios, the Nordic 12 TV Alliance and the Nordisk Film & TV Fond. Prior to its success at Göteborg, it won the Series Mania Award at the Berlinale Co-Pro Series pitching event in 2018 and was also a hit at the Spanish Serielizados TV festival last fall.

Verbúðin has also been extremely popular with audiences at home—80% audience approval according to some figures. But the positive foreign reception of this particularly Icelandic story has been particularly surprising for the creators, says Mikael Torfason, who co-wrote the script with two members of the Vesturport theatre and film company who also star in the series: Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir (The Vallhalla Murders, Trapped), Björn Hlynur Haraldsson (Trapped, The Witcher), and Gísli Örn Garðarsson (Ragnarok, Prisoners). “This is maybe not something you’d expect. The most popular material has usually been crime dramas.”



IKEA Christmas Goat Gives It Another Go

The IKEA Christmas Goat was erected without much fanfare in Garðabær on the outskirts of Reykjavík earlier this week, reports. The annual, ill-fated harbinger of the Christmas season has had to be placed under strict surveillance in recent years, as it is frequently a popular target for firebugs.

The Christmas Goat is based on traditional, albeit much smaller, straw Yule Goat figurines, and originated in Gävle, Sweden in 1966. IKEA in Iceland adopted the tradition in 2009. Neither the Swedish original nor its Icelandic cousin has fared terribly well over the years. The Gävle Goat has been burned to the ground or damaged 37 times. Meanwhile, the Christmas Goat in Garðabær has been subject to numerous pyromanical attacks and was successfully burned down by arsonists three times (in 2010, 2012, and 2016). It seemingly self-immolated in 2015, when it caught fire due to an electrical malfunction. But even in years when it hasn’t burned down, the Christmas Goat hasn’t fared much better: harsh winter winds have knocked it over on more than one occasion.

Last year, a spoof event on Facebook urging thousands to rush the Christmas Goat and burn it en masse led IKEA to place the doomed monument under 24-surveillance. What lies in store for the Christmas Goat this year remains to be seen, although one could easily argue that 2020 is perhaps not the best year to start being optimistic.

Icelandic Authors Featured in Gothenburg Book Fair

Gothenburg Book Fair

Four Icelandic authors will represent their country’s literature at the Göteborg (Gothenburg) Book Fair in Sweden this week. Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, Kristín Ómarsdóttir, Ragnar Jónsson, and Sigrún Eldjárn will appear in a diverse program at the fair, which runs from September 26-29.

On Saturday, Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, recipient of the Nordic Literature Prize, talks with the writers Dörte Hansen from Germany and Elin Olofsson from Sweden about when tradition meets modernity and when the progressive meets the conservative in regard to their latest books. Kristín Ómarsdóttir, who is nominated for the Nordic Literature Prize for her book of poetry Spiders in Shop Windows (Kóngulær í sýningargluggum), will read her poetry in the fair’s programme Rum för poesi. Auður Ava and Kristín will also participate in an event hosted by Swedish translator John Swedenmark discussing the imagination and the limitless lyricism of language, where the authors will read from their works.

Ragnar Jónsson will represent Iceland in the fair’s crime fiction programme Crimetime, where he will discuss his work with Lotta Olsson. Ragnar is very popular with Swedish readers, and his book Dimma is on the list of Book of the Year in Sweden and was on the Akademibokhandeln’s bestseller list for three weeks last April. His work Drungi has also been published in Swedish.

Programme for Icelandic Families

Icelander Sigrún Eldjárn will appear in the children’s programme Barnsalongen on Sunday.  She is nominated for the Nordic Children’s and Young Adult Literature Prize. Sigrún will discuss her books about Sigurfljóð, which she both writes and illustrates. She will also appear at an event for Icelanders living in Gothenburg on Sunday.

Icelandic Books in the Booth

The fair will also feature a booth selling Icelandic literature in Swedish translation and other languages. The complete programme of the 2019 Göteborg Book Fair can be found on their website.