Archives: April 2012

Hornafjörður- a trip to the east!

I decided to go on a trip, last month to the east with a bunch of people from Uni Iceland. We stopped along our way to Hornafjörður, for example in Vík í Mýrdal, and were the ash had impacted farms when Eyjafjallajökull erupted last year, in Hoffell under Hoffell glacier, Þórbergssetur of the famous icelandic writer Þórbergur Þórðarsson (a cultural centre in Hali, Suðursveit) and of corse in the ever so lovely Jökulsárlón, glacier lagoon. Hornafjörður, wich is a small town in southeastern Iceland, was a quiet and peaceful place. Here are a few photographs from the trip.



I really hope that I can go east again soon, to see and enjoy the landscape in the summertime. Our little island is so inspiring.

photos: Ása Baldursdóttir

 

Margrét Erla Maack

It’s the day after the night before; we’re standing outside Ísafjörðurs old gymnasium and on our way to meet up with Margrét Erla Maack, television presenter and Bollywood dancer. She’s here on unofficial business, in layman’s terms she is on her holiday. Unlike the rest of us though, she is going about it in a slightly different manner. For the second year running she will be hosting a short introduction to Bollywood dancing. We are going to talk to her just before she takes to her craft.

How long have you actually been involved with dancing?

I’ve done belly dancing for around seven years and then Bollywood dancing for some four years now.

So you’ve been all in for the last four years?

Yeah, I’ve been teaching Bollywood for the last three years and belly dancing for the last six.

What got you started?

I had a really bad back, that got me started and then my master teacher in New York got me started on Bollywood dancing to increase my endurance levels.

I assume you have delved yourself into the phantasm that is the world of Bollywood films?

Yes, yes, you have to know what they are singing about, where the film comes from, whether context is one of sadness or joy. Also a lot of the dances we teach are straight from tape, otherwise I’d just be cheating.

This creative field is just immense, much larger than most people can imagine full of vibrant imagery and all manner of techniques, would you agree to that statement?

Definitely, and it shows when people are working with the style. Take La Boheme for instance, which is on at the Harpan. In one of the scenes, where they are introducing Musetta, it’s supposed to be oriental and she is portrayed in a Mata Hari like manner. She is surrounded by a group of girls doing a mixture of belly- and Bollywood dancing and traditional hand symbols, but the one they are doing, means Devil or evil person!

That really was a bit of a shame, especially as there are quite few people that could have been called on to explain how they work and what they mean, it would just have been sorted there and then. I guess that to a lot of people, it’s pretty much the same, but in truth that is as if you’d say Icelandic and German was one and the same language. You’re sitting there going damn! This is the Icelandic opera, this shouldn’t happen.

The reason there is such emphasis on dancing, is you cannot invest that much energy in the screenplay. There is a lot of illiteracy and such a plethora of languages within India that the plot cannot the overly complicated. What they do is keep the plot simple and go all in with everything else, especially the visuals and the sound. That’s where their ambitions lie. In our “western” culture we place the emphasis on the storyline and the plot twists. If you where to take that angle you would lose a large portion of you audience. That is why you’ll see them dancing the important message, over and over again, with slight variations in the words and the symbols, so that it reaches as many people as possible.

 ”I tend to use pop songs because they are fast and you can really dance to them”

The hand symbols are a lot like the deaf news, and that derives from the old story dancing where the dancers would tell a fairy tale with their movements and signs. They would gesture the symbol for dragon and a lot of it springs from Hindu mythology, where a number of the gods have more than two hands. (Margrét displays in one swift movement what is palpably a dragon with her hand and then she does a rapid movement with hear limbs that again visually portray the idea of a Hindu god) If you don’t have these things 100% you can just forget about it!

When I create new dances of my own, I tend to use pop songs because they are fast and you can really dance to them. In the process I look at the lyrics in Hindi and then in the English translation. Then I move on to special websites that are just dedicated to hand signals.

In belly dancing it’s a lot simpler, you dance softly to a harmonica whereas you up your tempo and dance hard to drums, it isn’t a lot more complicated than that. This on the other hand has a lot of nuances you can really mess up so you have to be careful.

What has always got me, is the incredible escapism that they’re selling!

Exactly! It’s really no more than three major story lines and they are all on the line of “It will happen tomorrow, for you! You’re next” The classic themes are: The guy that wins the lottery, but sill keeps his heart of gold and everyone thinks they didn’t deserve it but he’s such a nice guy. Then you’ll have the Romeo and Juliet/West side story, where you have the lovers that can’t be together. They meet the love of their life and they don’t care if you’re from another cast! That’s where they’re selling hopes to people.

Lastly you have the blockbusters that are set in a theatre or a movie set. The hook being that the lead actor dies, has an accident or gets stinking drunk even. The following scene will be on the set and there is high drama, with people shouting: What will we do now? Is there anyone that knows the score? Who could possibly jump into this role at this hour? And then all of a sudden the janitor with the broom steps up and goes: I’m pretty sure I can do it!

He will then go on to have a romance with the lead actress. In these scenarios the downtrodden character is always getting the chance of a lifetime and will always succeed on the purity of his heart. These movies are a sedative, a massive one! And that is kind of disturbing. We’re sort of going ooh this is looks like such fun. When it’s actually a tranquilizer on a national scale.

These are the major story lines that are going on, and in the ones that have a film within a film (the blockbusters), you might all of a sudden get a cowboy dance routine, it makes no sense whatsoever but it’s in the movie that they are making in the film. They pull out all the stops, because it’s the movie-making world and that is so exiting. This world is simply full of fakery. All the beautiful actresses never ever sing their lines and they don’t hide it at all.

That’s honest in a way?

True, wasn’t it Julie Andrews that sang for Audrey Hepburn in My fair lady? So yes I guess so.

As a final note, I wanted to ask you why bring Bollywood to Aldrei fór ég Suður?

Well, I’m here anyway and this is my third year now coming to the festival. I really love what it stands for, and it’s simply a case of wanting to give something back.

I phoned up the swimming hall and told them what this was about and they were nothing if not accommodating. They said you’re doing this for free, have the gymnastics hall. And you know I’ve got a long summer holiday coming up and I might just come here and run a class, then people will know what it’s all about.

I also feel strongly that this should be more than just the rock festival, that in the daytime there should be some other form of entertainment for the people that hadn’t been out ’til one in the morning the night before.

 

It is obvious that Margrét works in television, for she is the perfect interviewee, she knows what you’re looking for i.e. more than a simple yes or no answer, which is a nightmare scenario for anyone that has ever taken an interview. Her answers are filling and reach something deeper. You really get the notion that here is someone passionate about what she does and cares for how it is received.

Interview: Guðni Rúnar Jónasson
Photographs: Elín Lóa

Westfjord ArtFest

Westfjord ArtFest was held for the second time this Easter in Ísafjörður and involved 58 artists from all over Iceland. The festival was in two different spaces this year; in Norska Bakaríid and The Edinborg Culture Center. Norska Bakaríid used to be a bakery and a store in downtown Ísafjörður, but now the house has been empty for a long time. This was an excellent location for an art exhibition like this. Twenty-five artists displayed twenty paintings and five video-works in Norska bakaríid. Most of the artists had been working on their piece since last year. The theme of the paintings was 1×1, which is a reference to the size of the paintings. In The Edinborg Culture Center, the exhibition Phobophobia was on display, a collaborative art exhibition of 33 illustrators. Their work can be seen everywhere, from the books on the shelves in our living rooms to the cereal boxes in our kitchen cupboards, our homes are filled with illustrations, both obvious and hidden. As a part of DesignMarch 2012, the illustrators had created posters that explored the scary, complex and sometimes comic world of phobias.

It is the online art gallery Muses.is that kept track of the festival with support from various local companies. Muses’s curator, Rakel Sævarsdóttir, is behind the whole plot. I sat down with Rakel and she told me a little bit about muses.is and The Westfjord Art festival.

Tell me something about you and muses.is, what is it?

Muses.is is an online art-showcase and gallery. Artists that have ambition and are doing exciting things in their creations have their works there. We want to promote the artists outside the electronic world so we also put up all kinds of exhibitions. The gallery itself provides various services for customers and our ultimate goal is to bring art closer to the public. You can look at our art at home or anywhere as long as you have a computer and our exhibitions are alive and interesting and open for everyone.

Where did this idea come from?

The idea came when I was in the University finishing my MA degree in Culture and communication. I talked about this to a friend of mine, then a few months later she came to me and asked if we should start working on the idea and since then, there has been no turning back except now I run the gallery on my own with support from all the artist on Muses.is.

How do you see it expand in the future or how do you want to evolve this concept?

I want to continue to add exciting artists to the gallery and put up exhibitions, further more I want to take the exhibitions outside the country. This summer, me and the programmer will work more on the website, to make it more interactive and I want to provide more prints and other art related products to the customers.

Westfjord ArtFest is kind of a new festival in Iceland, where did you get the idea?

I´m raised in the Westfjords and have been going there during easter ever since I moved to Reykjavik. A lot has changed since the skiing area was destroyed by an avalanche and had to be moved to a safer location. The biggest change during the annual Skiing Week, as it´s called, is the addition of the rock festival Aldrei fór ég Suður. That was a really a good change and gave the locals and visitors a reason to stay and visit Isafjördur. The idea of Westfjord ArtFest just came up as a way to bring balance to the rock during the day. To bring talented artists to Isafjördur and work with the local artists in making a cultural event for everyone to visit.

It is the second time the festival is held, how was this year different from the first one?

Last year was my first experience in setting up a big exhibition – we had great artists, a great location, amazing artwork but didn´t have any time to promote the festival so we didn’t have many visitors. Since then I´ve worked on four big exhibitions and therefore have more experience. On top of that I had a big help from Aldís María Valdimarsdóttir, who worked with me as a publicist and other friends and family members. As musician Mugison said so nicely: “You can´t do shit on your own”

 

On muses.is you can place bids in the artwork at the artfestival Westfjord Artfest, which was held for the second time in Isafjördur this easter.

See you next year in Ísafjördur!

Interview: Aldís María Valdimarsdóttir
Poster: Kristinn Gunnar Atlason
Photographs: Aldís María & Aníta Björk Jóhannsdóttir

SYKUR

We’re standing outside the venue at Aldrei fór ég Suður, Iceland’s premier music festival. Inside the organizers are running through the program with the artists. This is the ninth year now and the rise of the festival has been meteoric, this free music festival in the west of the country brings around 3.000 people to the town of Ísafjörður every Easter. Due to it’s northern lay and the curiously unfixed date of the Christ’s death the festival has been held in March and even as late as May but for the most part its about people dressed up in their woollen best, standing outside in snowy conditions.

We have attended this festival for years now and seen it grow to live broadcast on the web, national radio and television, it also brings tourists from all over the world, eager to sample this unique musical ensemble.

We snooped around backstage to grab a seat next to Sykur, ready to bombard them
with some questions as they gobble up their Plokkfiskur (traditional fish stew).

Hey, can we just start by getting your names?

Kristján Eldjárn, Agnes Björt Andradóttir, and that one over there in line for some Plokkfiskur is Halldór Eldjárn.

Is this your first time here at Aldrei fór ég Suður?

Yes, as a band, but I think we’ve all been to Ísafjörður before.

You’ve been playing as a band for quite a while now?

Since 2008, me, (Kristján), Halldór and Stefán Finnbogason. We got together to play fun electronic music. Stefán isn’t with us here he’s in the States at the moment where he is going to adopt a kid. We will have to do our best to make it without him and try and make sure the stage isn’t empty looking without him. Agnes joined us late last year.

So he’s legitimately excused. Is that how you’d describe your music?

Yes, Electric shock party music. “Oooohh That’s a great play on words, you should laugh now!” Unnsteinn from the band Retro Stefson shouts out. Halldór: You could keep a running commentary on the interview?
Unnsteinn: Sorry I’m a terrible attention seeker. Wouldn’t you (he turns and asks us) rather like to interview Stórsveit lýðveldissins? Which is the band that we started together. Kristján: That was a great band, we rehearsed in the attic of Austurbæjarskóli (East side elementary school) in-between filing cabinets full of grades of past students from the past seventy years. Ex-prime minister, Davíð Oddsson, for one.

How did he manage in school?

He was pretty shit at swimming, well that’s not a surprise really as there is such resistance in his curly hair.

He could have swum backwards?

True, he could have been junior world champion in the 400m backstroke!

You just released your second album Mesopotamia and have amassed a bit of a following.
What is the allure of coming to a festival like this, where you aren’t being paid for your work?

It’s just the atmosphere that you wouldn´t find anywhere else in the world, there’s the road trip, being with your friends and meeting other people from the industry. Also it’s just a huge party from start to finish and you get to see new bands. Besides as artists, the travel and upkeep is provided for us, that and Plokkfiskur.

Halldór: For me it’s not just a chance to have a good time, I have this romantic notion that we can reawaken the countryside. You don’t have to go far back in time to find a time when the countryside was much more alive. Towns are stagnating as everything moves to Reykjavík, I find that it’s just great to be able to give something back and hopefully the tide will turn. Of course there are a lot of people that come up from Reykjavík but you really get to play for a completely new crowd and its makeup, its component parts being very different to our regular crowd.

You’ll hopefully get to see grandmas and children sitting on their parents’ shoulders.
But as you’re last on stage it might be more underage drinking?

Agnes: That’s our target audience!

That is great, have you actively been endorsing under age drinking in your music?

All our lyrics are just hidden calls to young people to drink, I mean if you playback Mesopotamia you’ll hear the instructions to making your own moonshine.

Being last on the roster and topping of the night must be an honor?

As the program finishes so early it should be real fun! A lot of the time when our set is at three or four in the morning, everyone is etiher comatose from too much drink or just gone home. So it’s a nice change to be able to close this early.

Then you get people on their fifth beer and well it’s pretty much downhill after that?

Kristján: Yeah, pretty much breezers and speed from then on!

At last, are you looking forward to seeing anyone special over the weekend?

Agnes: I’d have to say HAM as I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing them live before. Halldór: For me it’s got to be Mugison, we saw him play in Oslo when we where over there playing and that was an amazing set. Kristján: Most of the musicians that we know I’ve seen before so many times before so I’m just looking forward to seeing something new and discovering new bands. Agnes: I’ve also heard that 701 is supposed to be really good.

 

We lead them out of the building to take a few pictures and are met by the coolest bartender I have ever encountered, he’s about ten and standing on the back of a pickup truck handing out ice-cold beers from from a fishing container. Ahh yes the weekend has arrived.

Interview: Guðni Rúnar Jónasson
Photographs: Elín Lóa

Lucky Records

On a foggy morning in Reykjavík we visited Lucky Records, the great vinyl shop at Hverfisgata and met with the owner Ingvar Geirsson and his right hand Gestur Baldursson. They offered us coffee, sat down behind the counter and asked us what we wanted to know. We told them that we wanted to know everything about this little shop, its treasures, and of course stories about their experience owning it.

Lucky_Records_music-store_Reykjavík_Iceland_020x

Firstly, when did you open the store and why did you name it Lucky?

Ingvar: I once worked as a DJ and there you have it. I was DJ Lucky and I mainly played on venues like Borgin, playing funk, soul, and jazz music. As for this store, I opened it in the beginning of 2009, prior to that I had a booth in Kolaportið, the Fleamarket in Reykjavík. At the time I had been collecting vinyls for a while and buying music both here in Iceland and abroad.

So, you are both musicians?

Ingvar: No, Im just a DJ (or was).

Gestur: Well, as a teenager I played for some time in my home town, Kópavogur. I was in the garage business – playing the drums here and there. There was a scene back in those days, guys playing metal who even won Músiktilraunir, a music competition held in Reykjavík, two years in a row. This influenced me a lot in my profession as a collector.

What can you guys tell me about the store, and its content?

Ingvar: The store has pretty much everything, you could say we offer a world class vinyl collection.

Gestur: There are so many vinyl shops in the world that operate within specific music genres, there are hip-hop vinyl stores, jazz vinyl stores and so on. Our collection contains a various range of music styles, and of course also Icelandic vinyl. We´ve had rarities in the store, exclusive records that are signed or singles that are prints from sessions, concerts or recordings that are pure gold for the music lover.

So, do you remember anything extra special in this context?

Ingvar: Hmm, it’s hard really to remember actually. But I can tell you that once we had a Hljómar vinyl, that was signed by all the band members. That’s a good example of a record that you can’t put a prize tag on, really.

Gestur: Exactly, some things are so valuable and historic, that you can’t exactly prize them. Especially when it’s a collectors item. Some records are one of a kind, literally. That is, sometimes vinyl have only been printed once, or there was just one copy made for example from a session and so forth. There are so many rarities in this business, really.

Ingvar: And don’t forget the Icelandic rarities. We’ve had vinyl that you can´t find anywhere else, with Icelandic artists, like Megas for example. There are so many vinyl that are rare and if you think about it, greatness on a vinyl.

What about the customers, who are they and what are they looking for?

Gestur: We have had all sorts of customers in the store, musicians, artists, music lovers and people of all ages. Well, musicians drop by a lot, we had one customer here the other day, the Icelandic pop icon Herbert Guðmundsson, buying his own CD’s. That is something that can´t be topped!

Ingvar: Back in the day, people would wait for the release of new vinyl by lining up in front of the store on the day of the release. It was the place for people to meet and talk about music, get tips about things and so on. This part of the music culture is disappearing because the record store has moved somewhat online and people download, every day, music on a digital format. But we still have this culture in our store, that is, musicians, and people that take great interest in music do come here to chat.

“Collecting records is my passion, that’s why I´m the Store’s best employee!”

Do you service the customer when they drop in, give them advice etc?

Gestur: Yes, of course. Firstly we have good turntables here, for the customer to listen to the vinyl before they decide on buying them. That is a basic demand for the customer, to get to listen to the records, in the shop. We service our customers here in the store and online, as well as buy and sell vinyls.

We take so much interest in this ourselves, so we like to help people to find specific records. We are always on a look- out for good things though.

When did you start to collect vinyl?

Ingvar: I was young, maybe 9-10 years old when I moved to Sweden. Since then, I have been collecting vinyl, playing them, dj-ing, and now I own this great record store. I can’t complain.

Gestur: I still have all my records from my childhood. Collecting records is my passion, that is why I´m the Store’s best employee! We are both specialists, we have been around this business for so long. That is why people enjoy coming here, just to talk about vinyl and other music related stuff.

What is your favourite album?

Ingvar: James Brown, without a doubt. I have all his records, I must admit, all 100 of them or so. They are all equally solid in my mind, James is such a powerful musician and an artist. It is hard to name one favourite album though.

Gestur: I agree it’s hard. I can’t name just one. Or wait a minute, I can name one band, Suicidal Tendencies, they have been around for a long time. I guess you could say that they are my all-time favourite band. Well, I think the point is, we are both music lovers and that is why we can’t list up one or two favourite artists and vinyls, that’s just ridiculous.

“Our lights are all made of vinyl, my wife made them and we only sell them to the right people!”

What else do you have in stock in your shop?

Gestur: We are not selling vinyl exclusively, we have CD’s of course, PlayStation games, VHS, posters, and what can I tell you more….

Ingvar: We are selling Lucky Records t-shirts, and hats and ohh, we are of probably selling the most unique lights that exist, look at the ceiling! Our lights are all made of vinyl, my wife made them and we only sell them to the right people!

What is ahead for you guys, anything special happening this summer?

Ingvar: Well, it’s the International Record Store day now in April that we are really looking forward to. On this day, independently owned record stores celebrate the art of music and the concept of the record store in general.

Last summer we participated in a world event with friends, here in the Heartgarden, which is located just outside our store and we will probably do so again this summer. We have also provided a DJ set or music for African days and other events, by lending them world music. I think its great, and we like the garden, it’s a great venue in the summer time.

There are so many other things, like the artwork on the covers? What can you tell me about that?

Gestur: The covers can be a freestanding art pieces if you think about it. There are many collectors that only collect the art work and don’t even listen to the music at all. Who doesn’t remember The Beatles crossing the street, Andy Warhol’s Banana, Pink Floyd´s triangle and so forth. These are images that you remember for life, even if you have never heard the music they represent it and that is pretty darn powerful.

Ingvar: I agree, there are so many things that you can’t get online, that is true. You have to have the physical cover, the physical vinyl. That’s just the way it is. Also sometimes you have memories connected to the albums that money cannot buy.

“We discovered there was another Lucky Record store, but it’s a store that has a focus on the gay genre”

Lastly, what can you tell me about the store, is it one of a kind?

Gestur: Well I have to tell you, we discovered there was another Lucky Record store, when we were googling the name. That store is located in Paris, France but it’s a store that has a focus on the gay genre and mostly sells records from artists like George Michael, Madonna, Village People… if you get my meaning. We just found it hilarious that there exist another Lucky Record store and we wish them the best of LUCK of course.

Ingvar: Well, our store is one of a kind it’s the best Record Store in Europe, I think. Hopefully others will agree with me. I think if you are in the Reykjavík area, you will not want to miss out on visiting us. We are very hopeful for the future. Long live Lucky Records!

Gestur: Hear, hear!

We say goodbye to the two friends that sit side by side with vinyl in their hand, sitting in the most comfortable sofa we ever sat in. Gestur waves us farewell, wearing his I heart Vinyl t-shirt, which is obviously what they both do. We wish them luck and great things in the future.

facebook.com/LUCKY-RECORDS
recordstoreday
ebay.com/19funkin73
discogs.com/19funkin73

Interview: Ása Baldursdóttir
Photograph: Nanna Dís

Karolina fund

After showing up at an informative meeting held by Klak Innovation Centre, a centre for innovation and business creation, we met with the guys from Karolina Fund who presented their business idea for the first time publicly at this event.

The fiercely four out of the group invited us to their desk in the facilities of Kvosin Innovation Center for a quick chat about the concept and the road ahead. The founders are Ingi Rafn Sigurðsson, initiator and manager, Jónmundur Gíslason, graphic designer, Arnar Sigurðsson, filmmaker and technological director, and one guy, who preferred to remain anonymous. Others in this crowded group of founders are Sævar Ólafsson, marketing director, Þórarinn Jóhannsson, web developer, Brynjólfur Sigmarsson, economist and Irina Domurath lawyer.

anonymous, Ingi Rafn, Jónmundur and Arnar

Karolina Fund is a crowdsourcing and crowdfunding platform for the creative industries. The idea is to bring ideas to life interactively with the help of others, service providers, investors. If you are a creator, you will have the opportunity to search for financing worldwide, but also to get other people aboard and profit from their know-how.
If you are an investor, you can browse projects and invest in them. As a service provider, you can offer your services for a project.

Everyone involved will be able to monitor the implementation of the idea through infographs and notifications on the achievement of milestones. Karolina Fund will release the funds according to those milestones. This means that investors will always know how their money is being spent, and service providers can be sure to get paid for their rendered services.

The platform thrives on the idea of social media idea. In fact, Karolina Fund is a social medium itself. People can have a profile, upload pictures, receive news, and join forums.

Project Profile

Who started the project?

First, in 2009, it was Ingi and Jónmundur developing the project. Later, Arnar, Sævar Ólafsson, Brynjólfur Sigmarsson and others joined. We believe that it is our strength that we are people from both the creative and business fields. It’s a good blend for the vision that we have with the platform.

Why do you think that funding is a better done online?

On an online platform, creators, investors, and service providers from all over the world can join hands and make projects together. Karolina Fund creates a global marketplace. In this way, you have access to more know-how, projects, and funding possibilities.

What can you tell me about the concept of crowdfunding,
and do people know what it means?

Well, the word can be understood literally. It’s about funding a project with funds from multiple resources. The concept is very well known abroad, especially in the U.S., and we hope to introduce it to Iceland and support creative projects here.

Wasn’t Breakbeat.is funding a graphical poster-book through crowdfunding not so long ago?

Yes, it was actually a great idea. Many who like this music and are interested in poster art, supported the project and gave money for the book. We congratulate them on the project. It’s good that people here are starting to do be interested in crowdfunding. This is exactly what we need.

So what is your next step in the project? What is in it for you?

We have a prototype ready and want to test the concept by having projects of different sizes for a try-out in our databank online. In that way we can test usability and customer experience before we launch the website. We are currently looking for funding.

In the end, we want to be a strong venue for the creative industries, service providers, and investors, and we want to create a platform that works just like the best social media sites online.

karolinafund.com
facebook/Karolina-Fund

Interview: Ása Baldursdóttir
Photograph: Nanna Dís