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Icelandic Music

karlakorThe first music in Iceland was made by the vikings between 800 and 1050. All the music back then was made from the poems of that time. Later on Iceland’s music became more like the music of the European mainland.

Today the music in Iceland is quite diverse and gets inspiration from all over the world.

Icelandic music includes everything from folk music, symphonies and choirs to rock, metal, techno, pop and everything in between.

Icelanders were quick to incorporate outside influences to their music. This often resulted in new types of music which was sometimes a mixture of all sorts of styles from all over the world.

The Beatles had a big influence on bands in the 60’s.

In the 70’s Folk music became popular. Punk became popular in the late 70’s

Punk and Heavy Metal was very popular in the 80’s.

In the 90’s Britpop, Indie Rock and Rap became popular.

airwavesMusic festivals
Iceland Airwaves is an annual music festival held Reykjavík on the third weekend of October. The festival spans five days, Wednesday – Sunday and its main focus is showcasing new music, both Icelandic and international. The first show was held in 1999 as a one-off event in an airplane hangar at Reykjavík airport. It has become one of the premier showcases for new music in the world, with hundreds of journalists and industry people in attendance. Airwaves has become known for its intimacy and party spirit. The festival has been called “the hippest long weekend on the annual music festival calendar” and an “unbelievable zest for music and celebration”. Iceland Airwaves is promoted and produced by Icelandic Music Export and sponsored by its founder Icelandair, in cooperation with the City of Reykjavík.

sigurrosAndkristnihátíð (Antichristian festival) is an annual heavy metal festival that has been held in Reykjavík since 2000. No other metal festival has had as much success as this one. Sigurður Harðarsson, the singer of Forgarður Helvítis, and Aðalbjörn Tryggvason, the singer of Sólstafir, formed the festival. The reason the festival was formed was because another festival called Kristnihátíð (Christian festival) was held earlier that summer and it cost the town a lot of money so Sigurður and Aðalbjörn felt they had to “answer” to it by forming a musical festival with this name. The first festival was held in the bar Gaukur á Stöng. In 2001 and 2006 the festival was held with a different name, Sólstöðuhátíð (Solstice festival). Most of the music played in the festival is death metal, black metal and punk, but other kinds of music have also been played.

Eistnaflug is an annual indoor music festival that has been held since 2005 on the second weekend of July in the town Neskaupstaður in the east of Iceland. It started as a small one day metal festival but it has now grown into a three days festival with metal, punk, indie and rock bands sharing a stage. The bands that play in the festival are both Icelandic and international and it’s the biggest festival of its kind in Iceland and it has been sold out every year.

mezzoforteBræðslan is a music festival in a town called Borgarfjörður Eystri (East Iceland) that was first held in 2005. It is one of the most popular music festival in Iceland and about a 1000 people go there every year which adds a bit to the town’s population which is about 140 people. The festival gets its name from the local herring factory where all the concerts of the festivals are held. The Icelandic radio station Rás 2 has broadcasted the festival every year.

Famous Icelandic musicans
Iceland has some internationally famous bands. Sigur Rós gained international fame with their album Ágætis byrjun which was released in the U.K. and U.S.A. in 2000. Björk gained international fame with her 1995 singles “It’s Oh So Quiet”, “Army of Me” and her 1996 single “Hyperballad”. Emiliana Torrini gained international fame with her 1999 album “emilianaLove in Time of Science”, the single 2009 single “Jungle Drum” and for performing the song “Gollum’s Song” for Peter Jackson’s film The Lord of the Rings. Mezzoforte gained international fame with the 1983 single “Garden Party” which peaked at #17 in the UK Singles Chart. In 1989 HAM released the album Buffalo Virgin and held several concerts in New York. In 2006 they performed at a north Atlantic music festival in Copenhagen with bands from Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Skálmöld was signed by the Faroese record label Tutl in 2010, which released the band’s debut album Baldur in Iceland and the Faroe Islands. In 2011 the band signed a record deal with Napalm Records and later that year Baldur was re-released worldwide. The deal with Napalm Records gave Skálmöld a significant popularity boost. The band was invited to participate in the Wacken Open Air festival and the upcoming Heidenfest 2011 tour.

Did you know?
Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” was written about Iceland.


Written by  Jón Páll