From Iceland — SOUR GRAPES


Published September 22, 2006


ATTN: Bart Cameron editor of Grapevine.
Please publish the following letter in whole online and in your next paper, in a conspicuous spot.
I was surprised and outraged to see myself portrayed as a Ku Klux Klan sympathizer, not only in your paper recently, but on the internet as well. I have experienced slander and lies about my persona in Icelandic tabloids such as Séð og Heyrt, Hér og Nú and the like. I haven’t bothered answering them or taking due measures. But because of the seriousness of your implications, I find myself forced to write to you and point out that, I have never ever said to anybody, publicly or privately, that “Icelandic folk musicians had travelled and taught black men the blues.” or that “we invented it” or anything about “what Icelanders gave black people” contrary to what your journalist Helgi Valur wrote in your paper. In fact Helgi Valur has a rather precarious perch, having publicised his evident distaste for middle-aged people, giving him an air of prejudice out of beat with his criticism of my alledged racism. I think prejudice is something to strive against. Middle-age is just a stage in every persons life that is lucky enough to live that long. I think middle-age is something to strive for. At this time I am not aware of my legal rights in this matter, but I feel it must be very serious to imply that somebody is a Ku Klux Klan member or sympathizer, when there is no ground whatsoever for these implications. I don’t find it good journalism or the least funny being publicly branded a racist and lied about in this way. I will seek legal advice in this matter in Iceland and abroad due to the publication on the internet. I request you remove this slander from the internet without delay.
Reykjavík, Iceland
I think we can all agree that the KKK is bad. Real bad. Let us agree on that from the beginning. I believe the section you are referring to is this one:
“First, though, I would watch KK. Every time middle-aged people get together to listen to music in Iceland, concert promoters call KK and check if he’s available.
KK walked onstage, played a beautiful song and then a crowd favourite. Then he enlightened us about the origins of blues. He told us Icelandic folk musicians had traveled and taught black men the blues. We Icelanders may have the most blues per capita, but I doubt we invented it. I hoped he would talk more about what Icelanders gave black people because then I could call him KKK. KK started to sing a cappella without a mic the way we did it back in the day. Compliments to him on a brilliant performance.”
I would like to point out two things in regards to your letter.
1. Helgi Valur’s review of your performance is glowingly positive.
2. At no point does he actually call you a racist.
His KKK reference is simple wordplay, albeit a tasteless one. Given that you have taken a firm public stand against racism, I can understand your frustration. I have given Helgi Valur the opportunity to reply to your letter in person, and here is what he said:
I do not take KK’s concerns lightly. I myself have been called a racist and knowing what KK stands for I can understand his anger towards myself. If people read into what I wrote that KK is a KKK or racist sympathiser I wholeheartedly and genuinely apologise. KK joked about Icelandic people inventing the blues. I turned that into a joke that maybe had nothing to do with the concert review which was my job at that time. I can honestly say that it was never my intention to suggest that KK is a racist for I truly consider him to be a stand up person.
As for my prejudice against middle-aged people I see little reason to apologise for. Middle aged men and women are probably the most powerful group in the country and the world. Middle-aged men and woman are fair game for all I’m concerned.
It was never my intension or want to imply that KK is racist and I’d be very surprised if anybody read that into the review. I ask for forgiveness with the words of Lukas Rossi. “I’m not perfect” and hope that you (KK) can find it in your (his) heart to forgive me. If not I remind you of the fact that I too will someday be middle aged
Helgi Valur

At the Grapevine, we have always spoken out against racism, and will do so in the future. In believe this is a case of miscommunication. Hopefully, this matter has been laid to rest.

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