Iceland Airwaves… a musical microcosm

Hyaltalin performing at RUV Radio photo by Scott Holpainen

Hyaltalin performing at RUV Radio
photo by Scott Holpainen

Just before the week-long CMJ broadcast, KEXP was invited to cover the Iceland Airwaves festival in Reykjavik, where over 215 artists, the majority from Iceland, performed at venues around the city.

Iceland itself is a microcosm of a music scene; in a city of only 200,000, comprising two-thirds of the country’s entire population — which is itself just over half of Seattle’s population — there’s an inordinate number of bands… and all of them are great! Perhaps it’s due to an educational system that values the arts and provides most students have some form of musical training, or maybe it’s the cold weather and short winter days, but nearly every young person we met during the festival seemed to be in a band. Sure, it does seem like that in Ballard on most days of the week, and Williamsburg definitely has a high residency of musicians, but it’s hard to image a larger concentration of talent than in Reykjavik. And thanks to both the small location and the lingering punk aesthetic that demands that art always be new, the range of genres, styles and sounds is far more diverse than in much more dense populations. In other words, not everyone in Iceland wants to be Bjork or Sigur Ros. In fact, no one does!

As proof of Iceland’s wide range of fantastic music, we’ll be featuring videos of band performing in-studio, at venues, and even in their living rooms here on the KEXP Blog over the next couple of weeks. As part of our experience there, we broadcast six local bands the the national statjion, RUV Radio, four of which you can listen to and watch right now. Here’s Hjaltalín, FM Belfast, For A Minor Reflection, and Hafdis Huld, all about as different from each other, but whether it’s pop, orchestral-, post-, or electronic rock, it’s invariably great.

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