Recently, the Icelandic indie pop band múm were invited to play a mysterious new festival among the cave dwellings and fairy chimneys of Cappadocia, Turkey. As a band that never plays the same setlist two nights in a row, it was hard to predict what they would come up with for the the first-ever Cappadox Festival. Set in an ancient village, the festival combined sunrise yoga, sufi dancing, shamanic sound meditations, cave art exhibitions and what it billed as “mystical musical experiences.”
Popular for atmospheric tunes such as “Green Grass Of Tunnel,” “Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know,” and their recent electro-pop album ‘Smilewound’, the band decided it would return to some of its most treasured and rarely played works for the performance. When we talked about bringing a video team to film the show, the band said it would be a unique performance, “a bit experimental, partly acoustic and partly improvisational.” Improvising to adapt to the surroundings was a challenge they seemed to welcome.
Cappadocia: A great setting for music and art
Cappadocia is like a dry and sunny version of Iceland, but with an even stranger landscape. Characterized by its volcano-formed ‘fairy chimneys’ and natural cave dwellings, the area has for millennia been a hideout for various civilizations and religious groups. The Hittites were the first ancient civilization to leave their mark on the region, and worshiped not only sun gods but ‘storm gods’, the chief one being a serpent-wielding god of thunder named Tarhunt, who very much resembles Thor. The area has also in recent decades been a hotspot for shooting sci-fi films, such as the film ‘Yor, Hunter from the Future‘, a film about a mighty space warrior who returns to this prehistoric land to search for his roots.
From one other-worldly place to another, it was clear that múm, famous for singing about the “land between solar systems,” would feel right at home, maybe even find their own pre-historic connections there. On arrival we wanted to benefit from the beautiful landscape, so we set the band up on a grassy knoll among the rock formations and shot this little outdoor impromptu video of a song they apparently hadn’t played in forever, appropriately titled “The Last Shapes Of Never.” As can be seen in the video, the band blended right in.
At the festival, time was short, so we had to make big decisions: a six AM sunrise concert with luminaries of the Istanbul music scene, or a three AM pickup for a balloon ride? Some of the band members opted for the sunrise concert, while the film team opted for the balloons. We weren’t surprised to get a text message from the drummer, in his typical Jedi-master fashion, precisely at six in the morning, asking which balloon was ours as he watched the balloons flying over the musical encampment. Good thing the film team chose the balloon ride, as this unreal experience added a nice touch to the concert videos show below.
With a small line-up and a guerilla film crew among those giant fairy chimneys, everyone was a little intimidated by the awesome beauty of the surroundings. The giant rock formations surrounding the concert stage gave the feeling that we were all so small. To get a wide angle of the venue, the film team needed to crawl in and out of networks of caves to place the camera, where we found ancient columns and tables carved into the fairy chimneys. We half-expected to meet prehistoric sand people in the caves or at least some ‘sleestacks’ from the ‘Land of the Lost‘.
Look at that photo: Thousands of years ago, the ancient people here worshipped “storm gods,” such as Tarhunt, the god of thunder
No elevator access here
The performance was indeed intimate. Tapping into the spirit of the ‘storm gods’ of the region,” the band explained to the crowd that this past winter saw the most storms of recorded history in Iceland, so they sang a song about a storm (“O How The Boat Drifts”). Several of the songs, including “Nightly Cares” (shown above), seemed to have been written for the location (“Nothing blows in the faraway, I go away, past the hills, past the day…”). As clearly as the audience was entranced by some of múm’s most raw material, the band was also taken in by the atmosphere and turned out a unique performance to mark the occasion.
In ancient times, travel from Northern Europe to inland Turkey would have taken months (unless you were captured and sold into slavery). Modern conveniences and distractions probably interfere with our ability to genuinely appreciate the beauty and history of these locations, but somehow when you are able to add the right kind of music and art, it seems to help us modern folk to slow down and appreciate it more. If you think about it, though, the people who lived there thousands of years ago would likely be amazed by the types of performances and recordings that were made at this festival. Compared to the original inhabitants of this area, we are the stuff of science fiction. But if someone digs up the material that was shot here in a thousand years, we would eventually be considered as ancient people who did cool stuff there. It’s all relative I suppose, but Cappadocia is the type of place and múm is the type of band that makes you ponder about such things.
The show provided an opportunity for múm to bring new life to some of the rare gems from their vast reserve of self-written material in a beautiful and timeless setting. You might not call it Icelandic sufism, but a nice dose of múm’s other-worldly sound felt right at home in the mysterious Cappadocian landscape.
FD Kristján produces videos for a variety of Icelandic bands with his friends at Isóla Films. The Isóla Film team for the “múm in Cappadocia” shoot also included Haylee Corliss and Marc Mikaelian (Solaris Dezine).