Live Icelandic music in the UK has long been a slightly ramshackle affair with occasional bursts of gig activity organised around festival appearances or low-key tours, such as the recent series of gigs undertaken by Benni Hemm Hemm. However, now British-based music fans and expat Icelandic folk will be able to get their regular fix of live Icelandic music with a new bi-monthly London-based event called Reykjavik Nights – a band night featuring the best new Iceland music that’s been set up by an enterprising group of friends and colleagues.
Now in the final stages of three months of planning, Reykjavik Nights debut evening will feature two of Iceland’s best live bands, Trabant and Æla, and is being held at an award-winning venue in North London called The Luminaire on Sunday June 17.
Renowned for featuring an eclectic lineup of bands with an international leaning, The Luminaire is a highly sought-after venue to stage events such as this and, with such a strong line-up for the debut night, organiser Kolla Karlsdóttir explains a bit more about the event and why she thinks it’ll be a massive success: “Trabant and Æla are such good party bands so we were really lucky to get them for the first show. For each gig we will also pick a special honorary ‘Icelander’ artist and for this show we’ve got the fabulous Tim Ten Yen – he’s become a cult figure in the UK with his entertaining performances and he’s very good at making people dance and putting them in a good mood, just like Trabant and Æla!”
Putting on such a night in London is no mean feat; the raft of logistical arrangements that have to be made when working with bands and venues based in different countries, alongside the effort required to get press coverage for the event, flyers distributed, posters made and all the other smaller organisational aspects, have added up to an almighty effort in getting this project off the ground.
Kolla, with a little help from some of her friends, has been the driving force behind the concept after a friend gave her the idea earlier this year: “I got the idea from my Danish housemate who was importing Danish acts to London some months ago. Last November I started up a PR company, Two Little Dogs, with the aim of helping Nordic artists to establish themselves in the UK as I want to make more opportunities and create a wider audience for Icelandic music. I have now got so many nice people involved with the Reykjavik Nights project, mostly English people who love the idea, and are helping me out as much they can. On a corny note, I don’t think I would have done this without them.”
Plans are already being made for the second night, but with a “completely different theme” to the testosterone-fuelled debut evening that also coincides with Iceland’s National Day and the eve of Trabant’s UK album release. Viðar Gíslason, guitar player with Trabant, is particularly looking forward to celebrating both of these important events: “Normally gigs organised to promote a particular country’s music are a bit cheesy but this one looks totally different and it’s on our National Day and is just before our album is release so, for us and all our Icelandic friends, it’ll be an extra special party!”
For the evening’s honorary ‘Icelandic’ artist, London-based Tim Ten Yen, the evening will be something of a first and an event that he’s also really excited about playing. Tim also has a unique inside view on how Icelandic music is viewed in the UK and how this might begin to change as more artists are showcased on future Reykjavik Nights: “If you said to anyone in London ‘what Icelandic music do you know?’, currently, there’s still only one answer: she’s got dark hair, she looks like a beautiful pixie and she’s sold more solo records here than Einar. Having a night of Icelandic bands can go some way to changing that by introducing more genuinely great music from Iceland into London. The Luminaire has won many awards for sound quality and for being an all-round great place to see a band play. This in itself is amazing. London has a lot of venues of varying quality, so the fact that, for it’s size, the bands are playing at The Luminaire shows that this is serious – these bands are coming over and will be seen in as perfect circumstances as possible. If you’ve heard of Trabant and their legendary live shows – this will be the place to see them live!”
On a more serious note, Reykjavik Nights also has the very worthy aim of furthering the reach of Icelandic music into London and beyond. Helping the organisers with this aspect of the night is Anna Hildur Hildibrandsdóttir of Icelandic Music Export ( www.icelandicmusic. is), she explains a bit about their role and how the partnership has been working: “Icelandic Music Export (IMX) is a newly-established organisation set up to support the business and marketing of Icelandic Music and we’re very pleased to be involved with Reykjavik Nights, it’s a really exciting initiative which is drawing attention to the ever-vibrant Icelandic music scene. The project is an ambitious one but Kolla has found a really good and respected partner in Andy Inglis, who runs The Luminaire, which has a good reputation and is a really nice club. Kolla has also the power and spirit to motivate like-minded people who share her passion for Icelandic music and has therefore created the perfect platform for IMX to partner up with in Reykjavik Nights.” So, with the backing of IMX, a great venue and a leader with a passion for Icelandic music, Reykjavik Nights will be the coolest ticket in town for some time to come and, if there’s any justice in the world of music, this will mark the start of a new era of international recognition for Icelandic bands. Tim Ten Yen, speaking from a relatively neutral point of view, certainly agrees that this could be the beginning of something big: “If Icelandic music wants to take over the world then London is a very good place to start.”
Sunday June 17
The Luminaire, Kilburn, North London