I’ve always wanted to go to Iceland, ever since I first discovered there was elves there. However I shall not be heading over to Reykjavik in just a few hours to look for elves, or Huldufólk (Hidden People) as they are commonly known. Even though a land where folklore is still strong appeals to the part of me raised on Tolkien and Fighting Fantasy books and has put Iceland to number one on my list of ‘places I want to visit’, I am headed out there primarily for Iceland Airwaves.
Iceland Airwaves is a city wide music festival, part industry conference (though they appear to be in denial over this by calling that part of it a nonference) and popular it seems with European Industry folk who think of themselves as alternative. The programming is an interesting mix of fringe industry bands and alternative Icelandic acts, though I’d be surprised if every band in Iceland wasn’t slightly alternative at least. For me it’s a chance to see a bunch of Icelandic artists I like such as Amabadama, Ojba Rasta and Úlfur Úlfur, plus other UK acts that I’ve somehow managed to miss all festival season such as LA Priest, Sleaford Mods or Skepta & JME. I’ve also been wanting to experience an underwater DJ set, where the speakers are submerged into a swimming pool, since either Gruff Rhys or Huw Stephens told me about it a few years ago, and that’s happening on Saturday (so long as my invite arrives as promised) with Tonik Ensemble providing the beats.
As ever I have a healthy list of bands I want to check out, but here’s a few of the Icelandic ones I am most excited about.
I’ve posted about Icelandic Reggae in the past and included a video from these guys. They seem to be the younger and newest of the recognised groups and the lighter musically, though this track also shows a rootsier side. They also provide the first clash of the festival, as they play at the same time as Kött grá pje (more about him later) but both are playing Saturday also so hopefully this won’t be too much of a problem.
I actually believed the biography that this was Hermigervill‘s twin brother, however I’ve since found that it is actually Hermigervill himself just under a different name. Although musically, the 80s throwback vibe isn’t totally winning me over here, I fricking love Hermigervill after seeing him over here a couple of times the past couple of years. He is a joy to watch, a great producer and a master theremin player.
Another fantastic Reggae band, this time very much on a roots vibe and from what I know the most established. Unlike many places, the 3 main Icelandic Reggae bands sing primarily in their native Icelandic tongue. Sadly my favourite Hjalamar aren’t playing at the festival but it’s looking like I might get to hook up with a couple of their members whilst I’m there at least.
Úlfur Úlfur & Kött Grá Pje
Actually two different acts but as I have limited time and this is one of my favourite videos of the year, it seems right to combine them. Plus one of their shows are next to each other so hopefully I’ll get to hear this. It seems like Rap is pretty huge in Iceland at the moment and even though there’s some dodgy material floating about, these guys are brilliant and the language works really well for them.
These guys seem to be more established than the newer breed of rappers coming up and although they are not in the official programme, they are still part of the festival, playing at Kaffi Sólon on Saturday (6pm – I shall have to run from my swimming pool gig). Anik, the rapper, was in Dark Circle, a UK based crew who were on DJ Vadim‘s Jazz Fudge label in the late 90s. Now relocated to Iceland and making some very interesting Hip-hop with this crew. Really looking forwards to catching them live. In fact I’m really looking forwards to catching all of these guys live. I have plenty more I want to catch, you can see my full playlist here, but for now it’s time for me to get my coach to the airport!