I'm inspired by Iceland since 1987Since the rise of The Sugarcubes I'm inspired by Iceland
As a Teenager
Since the age of 14, I was listening to the Dutch radio, while making my homework. They had some good, better than Belgian channels, alternative, indie radio shows on Wednesdays. One day in 1987, I got infected by the Iceland virus: the moment that a song called “Birthday” was aired on the VPRO Radio Station. The Dutch radio DJ Lotje IJzermans went to Reykjavík to meet The Sugarcubes. As a result a Sykurmolarnir “special” was broadcasted, also focussing on the pre-Sugarcubes period (e.g. KUKL). At the same time the VPRO television went to Iceland’s capital and showed a Reykjavík special with Björk & Co. as key figures. After watching this program, I went to the library of my hometown Stekene to learn more about this island in the North. In Belgian schools you don’t learn much about Iceland, and what you see about Iceland on the Flemish television is often outdated or just not true, so you depend on self-education. I started to collect books about Iceland. Soon followed by collecting Icelandic music and related stuff. I got myself a subscription to “Iceland Review” Magazine and “News from Iceland”, a monthly newspaper, to feed my hunger to anything related to Iceland. In the eighties Iceland was getting “hot”: MTV Special, the World’s strongest man Jón Páll Sigmarsson and two times a Miss World.
My first stay in Iceland was in the summer of 1991. I went on a 2 week travel around the country with Guðmundur Jonassson Company, whose founder Guðmundur guided Neil Armstrong and colleagues in Iceland. With an international group, one other Belgian living in Africa joined me in the tent, we did a full circle, also the interior. Best memory of the first Iceland trip, is getting sunburned while climbing the glacier @ Kverkfjöll.
In the nineties, I became one of the few Belgian members of the “Vinafélag Íslands of Niðurlanda” (Vereniging IJsland-Nederland) and wrote some articles for their bilangual magazine Huginn og Munnin, published in Dutch/Icelandic. Even wanted to begin with a Belgium-Iceland Association, but few Icelanders live in Belgium and/or have a short stay in Brussels (NATO, European Union).
I had 7 Björk t-shirts, sort of one for every day of the week, to go to University, so soon I was called “the Icelander” or “the Viking” among fellow medical students. Got some close encounters with Icelandic artists in Belgium. Sigtryggur Baldursson gave me a drum stick after the last Belgian concert of The Sugarcubes @ Ancienne Belgique (AB) venue in Brussels (1992). After the gig of Björk @ Vorst Nationaal venue (1995), my sister, brother-in-law and me followed by car the tour bus to her hotel to get a signature. She was surprised, not expecting a devoted fan to follow her coach, but got my signatures without being beaten up.
I went 3 times to Iceland in the 90s, an expensive destination for a student at that time, nowadays it’s much cheaper. In July 1996 I was a medical exchange student @ Landspítalinn Hospital. Highlight of that stay was the punk revival concert @ Rosenberg 27. July. On stage were Unun, Q4U and Fræbbblarnir. Sort of my own Rokk í Reykjavík: Ellý í Q4U sitting next to me in fishnet outfit, Heiða í Unun with mohawk, and last but not least Þór Eldon of Unun and Einar Örn Benediktsson reunited to perform “Surprise”, a song of Purrkur Pillnikk. Some years later, youngsters skating @ Austurvöllur and playing together in the band Spitsign, invited me to the HAM tribute concert where they were on stage in the basement of the National Theatre.
In July 1998 I came to work for one year as a medical doctor in the hospital FSA @ Akureyri, the capital of the North.
During my stay I travelled around the north, west & east with my Dutch friends who worked in the hospital too.
At the festivals
I brought a visit to Iceland almost every year around my birthday (skipped 2001 and 2003), twice a year sometimes. Since 2005 I’m coming to the Iceland Airwaves festival each year. In 2008 and 2009 I went to the Aldrei fór ég suður (Never went south) festival.
Iceland is still a cool “hot spot” or hot “cool island” in the Atlantic Ocean
The Icelandic Music Scene
Indeed the surprise of the earthquake caused by The Sugarcubes is gone. Björk put Iceland on the musical map. Everybody is waiting for the next big thing, the “new” Björk. In England they hype the new Beatles every week!
In my opinion, Icelandic music scene is unique in the collaboration and interaction of bands (e.g. concerning equipment, rehearsal spaces even band members), even of different musical styles, and the “Do It Yourself” (DIY) mentality. Icelanders already did it before the punk generation claimed this principle. I think that is based on the fact that Iceland is an island, an island with volcanoes & glaciers, and moreover has a small population. You have to do it yourself and believe in yourself, because on an island with only a few people there’s nearly nobody else who can help you. Moreover because of inflation, eruptions and jökulhlaup risk they have to make quick decisions. It’s seems like every Icelander has to write a book, and every Icelander has to record a CD, or a least make some music. Last years Iceland is exporting its music, even supported by the government (Iceland Music Export/IMX), in a more structured manner. Although still surfing on Sugarcubes’ tidal wave.
My favorite Icelandic music
In my opinion, the band Unun, sort of The Sugarcubes 2.0, made the best Icelandic album ever: namely “Æ”, released in the USA with lyrics in English as “Super Shiny Dreams” (Bad Taste USA). Let me drop some other names: Bang Gang/Barði Johannsson (Lady & Bird with Keren Ann Zeidel), Dísa, Dýrðin, Eberg, Elíza, Ensími, Feldberg, FM Belfast, Ghostigital, HAM, Hellvar, Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, Jan Mayen, Jeff Who?, kimono, Mammút, Motion Boys, Pornopop, Retro Stefson, Singapore Sling, Skakkamanage, Sudden Weather Change, Ultra Mega Technobandið Stefán, Úlpa, Vicky and Worm is green.
Interesting bands from the past: 200.000 Naglbítar, Bellatrix/Kolrassa Krókríðandi, Bless, Botnleðja, Bubbleflies, Hölt Hóra, Jakobínarína, Lada Sport, Maus, Skátar, Texas Jesús, Trabant, Yúkatan.
The best album to learn Icelandic is the album for children (and parents) by Dr. Gunni and his friends, entitled “Abbababb!”.
The best album to study Icelandic grammatics, “Von” by Sigur Rós, my background music in the winter of 1998-99 in Akureyri.
I started my blog “I love Icelandic music” after enjoying my second Airwaves festival in 2006. The Icelanders, always quick in picking up new trends, Benni of the band Skátar and Elli of the band Jeff Who?, both working for Smekkleysa, were the onces which introduced me to the social media and networking sites.
First of all, I had to found a name for the blog. It refers to 2 things: the Flemish “I love Techno” festival and stickers in cars “I love …” (my dog, Mini, etc.). So I decided to name it “ I love Icelandic music”, or “I (heart) Icelandic music”, with in the subtitle even the word “4ever”. My first intention back in 2006 was to post my photographs of the festival. I started to google on Icelandic music, but there were not so many good sites on Icelandic music, especially not in English. No Iceland Music Export, no Iceblah, …
Second reason to start the blog was that I missed some concerts of Icelandic artists playing in Belgium. Now I want to inform people about concerts of Icelanders in Iceland and abroad. In the beginning I was also posting in Dutch, but now it’s only in English. In the beginning I was copying and pasting, but now I’m trying to bring some personal, and/or original things as posts too. That’s what blogging is all about.
Third of all, I want to post correct information online, no sloppy journalism of any kind, like a lot of Belgian journalists keep on doing (stereotypes, outdated or incorrect information, wrong Icelandic names & words, etc.).
It takes my about 20 hours a week, digging for interesting stuff, making things myself. But I’m not only focusing on new trends, artists, I like to go into the history of the music, hard to find material and not yet online information.
Since April 2007 I post an Icelandic Song of the Week, sometimes a brand new one, but even an old or classic song. I like to mention another interesting blog matter. Since October 2008, I am part of the Music Alliance Pact (MAP), a blog collective of sites specialized in the music of one country, started by Jason, who runs the blog “The Pop Cop” about Scottish music (scene). We started with 12 blogs in 2008, but today more than 30 music blogs in five continents share their favorite song from their countries and simultaneously post the entire collection to their own sites on day 15 of each month. The best selection of upcoming music is spread to an audience of hundreds of thousands of people across the planet.
Icelandic music & tourism
Over the years, I met some other Belgians and foreigners very interested in Icelandic music in real life. Downtown Akureyri I met an Aussie with his mother on a trip around the island who noticed my Björk t-shirt. Some of them moved to Iceland forever or for a while, like a Danish nurse of the hospital of Akureyri and huge Sugarcubes fan did. Others never got to Iceland (yet), just waiting for the Icelandic artists to come over and saving the money of the expensive trip(s) to Iceland. For years the government neglected that a lot of tourists came to visit Iceland because of the music made by The Sugarcubes and later Björk. Or they didn’t want to hear about the success of this strange bunch. Most people are fan of one particular Icelandic band, artist or label, but some of them detect other groups. The first wave of interest in Icelandic music was caused the Sugarcubes, shortly followed by the worldwide Björkmania (with Björk as a sort of synonym for Iceland). The GusGus collective followed in their footsteps. Third wave was Sigur Rós, followed in the slipstream by other krútt bands like múm. At that time Iceland Airwaves kicked off and attracked people from abroad. This decade Icelandair and Iceland Express have special deals to go to concerts in Iceland (e.g. more than a decade of Iceland Airwaves festivals, The Sugarcubes Reunion Concert 2006, Nattúra 2008 Concert).
As a country Iceland is changing quick, loosing it’s unique way. Sometimes a sort of little America, sometimes getting the trouble of bigger European towns. Sad thing was the choice for the big and quick money of the banks and related friends, as well as the (future) demolitions of the old buildings downtown Reykjavík. Iceland as a nation is on a crossroad and has the choice between ecology and economy. “In Cod We Trust”: the clean money of computer related industries (games, 3-D, webdesign, anti-virus software, Microsoft,...) and the tourists who want to enjoy the unspoiled country of the elements (fire, ice, water, air) or the dirty money of the industrialization with unevitable spoiling of the nature.
Iceland only has to change one letter in its name : “IcTland” to become Niceland again.
But now you can enjoy this video featuring Emiliana Torrini's song "Jungle Drum".
Part of a promotion campaign of the Icelandic Tourist Board & other partners called Inspired by Iceland.
Featuring the Icelandic band Útidúr among many other people.
Even a longer Video, that features short interviews with the president of Iceland, the fresh Major of Reykjavik, gay popstar Paul Oscar, Kjarri Sveinsson of Sigur Rós but most of all Icelandic music by leading lady Björk ("Jóga" Video), Amiina, Sigur Rós & Ólafur Arnalds.