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The music of Iceland is related to Nordic music forms, and includes vibrant folk and pop traditions, including medieval music group Voces Thules, alternative rock band The Sugarcubes, singers Björk and Emiliana Torrini, and post-rock band Sigur Rós. The only folk band whose recordings are marketed abroad is Islandica.

The national anthem of Iceland is "Lofsöngur", written by Matthías Jochumsson, with music by Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson [1]. The song was written in 1874, when Iceland celebrated the one thousandth anniversary of settlement on the island. It was in the form of a hymn, first published under the title A Hymn in Commemoration of Iceland's Thousand Years.


Folk music

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Icelandic music has a very long tradition, with some songs still sung today dating from 14th century. Folk songs are often about love, elfs and hidden peoples, trolls, sailors and masculinity, and tend to be quite secular and often humourous. Since Iceland has traditionally been very isolated, foreign influences were virtually absent until the 19th century, but this has resulted in a characteristic rhythm lost in other Nordic countries. One of the main characteristics of Icelandic folk music is called "hákveða", which refers to a special emphasis that is placed on some of the words of a song, often the last word of each sentence in each verse. An example is the song "Ólafur liljurós" from around 1500; "Hákveða" is shown in italic letters:

Ólafur reið með björgunum fram, villir Hann, stillir "Hann,
hitti hann fyrir sér álfarann, þar rauði loginn brann,
Blíðan lagði byrinn undan björgunum, blíðan lagði byrinn undan björgunum fram.

Hallgrímur Pétursson wrote numerous Protestant hymns in the 17th century. This music was further modernized in the 19th century, when Magnús Stephensen brought pipe organs, which were followed by harmoniums. Icelandic folk music was collected by the work of Bjarni Þorsteinsson from 1906 to 1909. Many of these songs were accompanied by traditional instruments like the langspil and fiðla. Epic alliterative and rhyming ballads called rímur are another vital tradition of Icelandic music. Chaindance, known as víkivaki was performed on various occasions in Iceland since the 11th century, sometimes in churches, during the Christmas season. Some efforts has been made to revive these traditions. In the early 18th century, European dances like polka, waltz, reel and schottische begin to arrive via Denmark. These foreign influences led to declining of native dance and song traditions, although it has seen a revival in later years. These foreign dances are today known as gömlu dansarnir or literally the "old dances".

"Ólafur Liljurós" is an old Icelandic víkivaki folk song who about a man who is going to meet his mother but while is riding his horse, an elf lady seduce him and kisses him. Ólafur eventually dies. In the Faroe Islands there is a similar song called "Ólavur Riddararós". Old folk songs are often about trolls, elfs and hidden people as well as hard winters.

Rímur are epic tales, usually sung a cappella, which can be traced back to the Viking Age Eddic poetry of the Skalds, using complex metaphors and cryptic rhymes and forms. Some of the most famous rímur were written from the 18th to the early 20th century, by poets like Hannes Bjarnason (1776-1838), Jón Sigurðsson (1853-1922) and Sigurður Breiðfjörð (1798-1846). Rímur were, for a long time, officially banned by the Christian church, though they remained popular throughout the period. A modern revitalization of the tradition began in 1929 with the formation of the organization Iðunn.[2]

"Heyr himna smiður" (Hark, Creator of the heaven) is probably the oldest psalm which is still sung today. It was written by Kolbeinn Tumason in 1208.

Popular music

Icelandic pop music today includes many bands and artists, ranging from pop-rock groups such as Sálin hans Jóns míns, Á Móti Sól (Rockstar: Supernova Magni's band), Írafár, Í Svörtum Fötum, Quarashi, Bang Gang, Amiina, and Skítamórall to solo ballad singers like Bubbi Morthens, Megas, Björgvin Halldórsson and Páll Rósinkranz, and all the way to reggae band Hjálmar and Bulgarian indie-folk band Stórsveit Nix Noltes. The indie scene is also very strong in Iceland, and bands such as múm, Sigur Rós and the solo artist Mugison are fairly well-known outside Iceland. Easily the most famous Icelandic artist is eclectic singer and composer Björk, who has received 13 Grammy nominations and sold over 15 million albums worldwide, including two platinum albums and one gold album in the United States.

In recent years, Iceland has seen a development and change in both the commercial and underground music scene. Prominent experimental indie bands, such as the high school originated Hjaltalín and Benny Crespo's Gang are enjoying a wider audience. Notable music veterans are expanding into sub genres; for example, GusGus frontman Daníel Ágúst is currently collaborating with punk rock star Krummi from Mínus, forming the raw duo Esja. The electronic scene in Icelandic music has also picked up a wider audience. Grittier electronic bands are redefining old styles with dynamic music such as the widely acclaimed band Steed Lord, who proclaim themselves as producers of "Gangsta electronic music".

The so-called Icelandic Metal scene is a mix of metal and hardcore acts. Some notable Icelandic Metal/Hardcore bands include Sólstafir, Changer and Severed Crotch.

Icelandic Music

Music Production

Michael Pärt Músík ehf. is a notable music and film music production company in Iceland.

Music institutions, festivals and venues

Iceland Music Export is the name of a government sponsored initiative which "aims to bring together the disparate strands of Iceland's eclectic scene under one roof." The main purpose of the office is to promote Icelandic music worldwide. Iceland Music Export's web-site features a comprehensive list of Icelandic musicians and groups of all genres, Icelandic music videos, downloadable mp3s, interviews and profiles. Iceland Airwaves is a major annual event in the Icelandic music scene, where both Icelandic and foreign bands perform in every club in Reykjavík for a week.

See also



  1. ^ "The Icelandic National Anthem". musik og saga. Retrieved November 11 2005.  
  2. ^ Cronshaw, pgs. 168-169

External links



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