Music of Iceland

Music of Iceland

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 . 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

Traditional Icelandic music is strongly religious in character. 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.

There are also many folk songs which are not religious that include elves and other hidden creatures. Ólafur Liljurós is an old Icelandic 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 Faroe Islands they have 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 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 .

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

Popular music

Icelandic pop music as of today consists of a big group of bands, 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, Skítamórall, and Ivar Damian 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, 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 world wide including two platinum albums and one gold album in the United States.

Upon 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, are enjoying a wider public. Notably 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 public. Grittier electronic bands are redefining old styles with dynamic music such as the widely acclaimed band Steed Lord, who self-proclaim themselves as producing "Gangsta electronic music".


The so-called Icelandic Metal scene is a mix of metal acts and hardcore acts. Some notable Icelandic Metal/Hardcore are Sólstafir, Momentum, Fighting Shit, Celestine, Plastic Gods, Changer, Blood Feud, Diabolus, Muck and Severed Crotch. Most bands keep a myspace site.

Icelandic Music

Music Production

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

Music institutions, festivals and venues

Iceland Airwaves is a major yearly event on the Icelandic music scene, where both Icelandic bands along with foreign ones occupy every club of Reykjavík for a week. Iceland Airwaves official webpage can be found here

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 world-wide. One of Iceland Music Export's main features is its web-site, which features a comprehensive list of Icelandic musicians and groups of all genres, Icelandic music videos, downloadable mp3s, interviews and profiles.


  • a rimur from the Library of Congress' California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties Collection; performed by Sigurd Bardarson on April 29, 1940 in Carmel, California



See also

External links

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