From Iceland — Dancing Behind Bars: Exploring The Relationship Between Entertainment And Imprisonment

Dancing Behind Bars: Exploring The Relationship Between Entertainment And Imprisonment

Dancing Behind Bars: Exploring The Relationship Between Entertainment And Imprisonment

Published September 5, 2022

Photo by
Emma Ledbetter
Stefán Pálsson

Musician Ingibjörg Friðriksdóttir’s newest release, ‘Brotabrot’, explores the complex relationship between entertainment and imprisonment, calling into question the morality of the wildly popular true-crime genre.

By blending interviews with former prisoners with dance-worthy electronic music, Ingibjörg—who goes by the stage name Inki—poses this question and urges us to think more critically about the entertainment we consume, specifically in relation to those who are incarcerated.

California roots

While attending the Mills College Center for Contemporary Music in California, Inki became involved as a producer on the ‘San Quentin Mixtape,’ the first album released from behind bars in the United States. Working on this project opened her eyes to the world of imprisonment and gave her insight that most lack.

“I think people like to tell their stories.”

“That’s when I got interested in this relationship that people who aren’t in prison have with this world that they never experience or see that much,” Inki says. “I was wondering about this relationship between entertainment and imprisonment. It’s a complicated relationship because it’s obviously important that these stories are heard, but people are making money off of their stories.”

Using her background with the San Quentin project, Inki decided to make her own art to understand this complicated relationship. “This is how I got the idea to make a dance-hit song blending these two elements together. This is entertaining music with very dramatic stories from prison,” she explains.

Storytelling

Inki interviewed several former inmates from the Icelandic Women’s Prison. However, when the prison was in commission, so few women were imprisoned, men were often placed in the women’s prison as well. Inki used friends, family, and social media to help her find people to interview.

“It’s a different vibe if an artist comes to someone from the governmental or prison system side,” says Inki. “So I knew I had to ask around to see if anyone knew someone because Iceland is so small.”

Inki was able to find several former inmates who were willing to share their stories for the project.

“I think people like to tell their stories,” says Inki when asked why she thought people were willing to participate in the project.

Juxtaposition galore

The album is a slow burn, ending with a big dance-hit titled “Love of my life, bad guy.” All of the titles in the album are quotes taken from the interviews used in the song and almost tell a short story of their own.

“A lot of people go out to dance to forget,” says Inki. “I like to think about people on the dance floor dancing to forget to the tune of true prison stories.”

“Imprisonment is relevant to everybody.”

Listening to the album does feel a bit emotionally jarring. You are captivated twice. At first, you are joyful and having a great time listening to electronic music. Then, you listen to the interviews overlaid on top, and you almost feel guilty for being so joyful, but then you’re captivated by the stories being told.

Closing the gap

It’s very easy to distance yourself from prison and make assumptions that you will never be connected to imprisonment. However, Inki realises the fallacies in this assumption.

“People feel disconnected to the possibility of ever being in prison or knowing anyone in that position,” says Inki.

In her interviews, Inki focused more on the more mundane aspects of imprisonment, including smells, outdoor time (or the lack thereof), and other daily aspects of life. Inki believes it is easier for people to relate to these stories, in turn, dismantling assumptions.

“Imprisonment is relevant to everybody,” says Inki. “It should be relevant to everyone how we as a society decide to punish people.”

Through this project and the San Quentin project, Inki grew close to some of the people she interviewed and worked with.

“Doing this project, you are asking people to trust you with their stories, so you have to trust them,” Inki says about working with the former inmates.

Moving forward

Inki is already working on her next project, ‘Thoughts Midsentence,’ an album she will be producing and singing on, the first single, “Playing with fire” will be released Sept. 30th. For the first time, we will get to hear Inki tackle songwriting with her own voice.

You can listen to Brotabrot on Spotify.

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