This year over 50 bands are making their Iceland Airwaves debut. Some have been on the scene for decades, others just formed last month. In the remaining weeks before the festival we are sifting through them, ten at a time. We’re not going to make the decision for you, but we can at least help you make more a more informed one. Read the other parts of the series here.
Few music genres give as much credit to the background band as to the lead singers. But anyone who has followed rap since its beginnings knows that the beat is as important as the emcee. Entire careers are built off of the beat. Þorsteinn Lár (DJ Stinson) and Þorbjorn Einarsson (Basic B) know all sides of the game. The former has been a member of XXX Rottweiler Hundar for over a decade, and the latter is an independent producer for the likes of Úlfur Úlfur, Emssjé Gauti, Gísli Pálmi and more.
It’s always a good idea to listen to your big brother. Especially your figurative big brothers, the ones who came before you in the craft. Bróðir Big give props to hip-hop’s trail-blazers and mavericks by rapping over their iconic sounds—old jazz riffs, MF Doom beats, and Sam Spiegel’s funky “Whatcha Gon’ Do” drop feature prominently on this Icelandic hip-hop artist’s SoundCloud.
Helgi Jónsson has been roaming the Reykjavík rock scene since 2013 with his band Ring of Gyges—a four-part progressive/psychedelic rock group. Earlier this year, Helgi entered Músiktilraunir with his solo material, and landed in second place as guitarist of the year.
Hinemoa drifted onto the scene in 2014 with their soft and dreamy single “Í Rökkuro.” In 2015 they released their singles “Running Amongst the Stars” and “Bye Bye Birdie,” which floated up the charts of the national radio Rás 2, and hovered there for the next six weeks.
The idea of starting a project with friends is always a romantic one. Build a treehouse, run a company, start a band. What follows rarely lines up with the original blueprint. But the five members of HórMónar (“Whoremoans”) didn’t have a blueprint for their band when they met up in a garage in Garðabær—in fact, they didn’t even have much musical experience. And that became part of the project. Working off of the belief that creating music should not be a process exclusive to those with the technical skill, they entered Músiktilraunur earlier this year and won first prize.
If you’ve had any contact with the Icelandic music scape over the past years, Jófríður should need no introduction. It’s almost like putting Björk on a debutantes list and then trying to explain to people who she is. In fact, Björk mentioned Jófríður as one of her inspirations in a recent interview with the Guardian. She’s the electrifying vocal front of Samaris, one-half of the enchanting twin duo Pascal Pinon, and a piece of the mysterious supergroup GANGLY. Now it’s time for people to see that as a solo artist, Jófríður is nothing short of magical.
About halfway through the list, you may have noticed that there are a LOT of rappers on the scene this year. As emcees in a country of less than 350,000, there are only so many ways to stand out. Rather than looking inside the ever-growing hip-hop scene, Malgænn pulls from all over Icelandic music. While he lays down the lyrics, he drafts in friends and collaborators from a variety of sources for the beats and music, from Amabadama to Útidúr.
Jazz music is kind of like a quilt. A good jazz musician can stitch together seemingly disparate patches of rhythm and cadence into one smooth material. Magnús Jóhann is a master seamster. He’s played with various bands around Reykjavík—everything from metal to funk to pop—and sews these influences into his current career as one of Reykjavík’s most eclectic jazz cats.
Ragnheiður Benediktsdóttir and Guðlaug Helgadóttir started RuGl together when they were just fourteen. Earlier this year. The two youngsters were school friends who joined up to compete in this year’s Músíktilraunir, where they were applauded for their compositions and vocal arrangements. To say these faces are fresh on the scene would be an understatement.
Want more new bands? We got you: read the rest of this series of articles here.
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