Once a year, we at Grapevine honour the best and brightest of the Icelandic music scene by giving out awards to some of the artists who light up our lives on the little subarctic island. The second—the Shout Out award—goes to rapper Alvia and composer and performer Bára Gísaldóttir. You’re invited to join us for some drinks, laughs, and super special live performances from some of the winners, including Bára, at Húrra on January 5th.
Mass For All
Bára Gísladóttir pushes the boundaries
Words: Steindór Grétar Jónsson
The more avant garde and experimental niche of classical music in Iceland has enjoyed a wider audience in recent years. One of the rising stars of this scene is Bára Gísladóttir, composer and double bassist. In 2017, the Danish National Symphony Orchestra premiered her composition ‘VAPE,’ which she followed up with a solo album, entitled ‘Mass For Some,’ in the autumn.
“I think the music scene is changing and opening up,” Bára says. “It’s not as compartmentalised as it used to be. Festivals that used to want classical music are looking for something new, and Iceland Airwaves, for example, which used to be more indie-rock focused, has opened up to a wide array of genres.”
A self-described workaholic, Bára’s busy schedule prompted a burnout last summer. She addressed her exhaustion by staying with a friend in the remote town of Borgarfjörður Eystri. While she was enjoying some well-deserved rest and relaxation, everything fell into place. “It’s where I got the idea and composed the album,” she says. “When I got back into town I recorded it.”
2018 will see Bára focusing more on chamber music, in part as a member of the brand new Icelandic ensemble Elja. Her work abroad will continue as well, as she will be composing for the Danish National Radio Choir. When asked about her artistic process, Bára says she tries to take ideas as far as possible. “If I’m working with a title in mind, I’ll consider all possible meanings, interpretations and implications, zooming in and out,” she says.
The Gum Gum Queen
The rise and rise of Alvia Islandia
Words: John Rogers
Alvia Islandia appears over a patchy Skype connection, from Florida, where she is spending her Christmas holiday. Through a fog of digital glitches, she’s full of energy and beaming smiles, bouncing around her room as she reflects on a year that saw her rise to the top of Iceland’s exploding rap scene.
“I released my mixtape ‘Elegant Hoe’ this year, and I’ve been working on ‘Pistol Pony,’ an album that’ll come out in 2018,” she says. “It’s been a year of me finding my path, exploring, and getting a lot of inspiration.”
Now 24, Alvia started rapping at the age of 16. After years of honing her craft, her first album ‘Bubblegum Bitch’ came out in 2016, on her own Gum Gum Clan label. “I see the releases as a trilogy, like the Matrix, and ‘Pistol Pony’ is the final part,” she says. “I’ve also been working with Vala Crunk, and Gum Gum Clan is going to release her EP in March. She’s my hype girl, and now she’s doing her own music. I want to release more artists too.”
In addition to working on her music and label, Alvia has also been making candy-themed clothing under the moniker POPit. “That’s been a dream for a long time,” she says. “I’ve only made a few of them, but I’m going to do twenty more, and some sweaters. I’m not going to do a lot of them; I want it to be exclusive. But there’ll be some more designs.”
Alvia likes the DIY method, because “You learn the most from that.” Impressed by her enterprising nature, I wonder out loud if she’s building a Gum Gum empire. “That’s right,” she exclaims, flashing her cheeky gap-toothed smile. “We’re taking over!”
Come and celebrate the Grapevine Music Awards with us at Húrra on January 5th 2018, and see Bára perform live. Entry is free, and beer will be provided by our friends at Víking. Read about more 2017 winners here.