KEXP at Iceland Airwaves, Day 3: Ojba Rasta

photos by Jim Bennett

Ojba Rasta is the second Icelandic reggae band to be broadcast live on KEXP at Iceland Airwaves this year. Where Hjálmar is relaxed and spacey, Ojba Rasta is a big ol’ party. This 11-piece band (featuring members of Sin Fang, Retro Stefson, and other popular Icelandic bands) has sped up grooves, horns, synths, and vocal samples. Their name is a play on the Icelandic word “ojbarasta,” meaning “eww gross,” but their music is anything but. In fact, their recently released self-titled debut is still high on Icelandic charts and has had two #1 hits on Rás 2, or Channel 2, of Iceland’s national radio station.

With winds in Reykjavík blowing between 50 and 70 mph, the crowd at KEX Hostel was a little smaller than previous days, but those who braved the weather were just as jazzed as any full house. Ojba Rasta began with “Jolly Good,” their only song in English. The song has an underlying traditional dub beat, layered with bits of reverbey weirdness and messy Hendrix guitars. The lyrics (including the repeated phrase “I’m a little wanker”) are reminiscent of the sentiment of Radiohead’s “Creep.”

The next couple of songs (“Gjafir Jardar” and “Hreppstjórinn”) had the reggae beat, but the overall feel was something like Balkan ska. The horns brought in the eastern European flair, while the rest of the instrumentation added trippy ska vibes to the mix. Their final song, “Baldursbrá,” was uptempo and super fun. If there had been a little more floorspace (and a bit more inebriation) this would have most definitely turned into a crazy dance party.

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