From Iceland — Iryna's Wednesday Night Iceland Airwaves Diary: Scent Adventures, Arctic Waves & Fresh Blood

Iryna’s Wednesday Night Iceland Airwaves Diary: Scent Adventures, Arctic Waves & Fresh Blood

Published November 2, 2023

Photo by
Joana Fontinha

When the biggest music festival in Iceland and the print week at the Grapevine coincide on the calendar, it’s not fun for anybody. Being stuck with finishing articles long into the evening, I almost decide to just skip the pre-opening night of Iceland Airwaves. Then, I change my mind and don’t regret it for a second.

Tunes from the Arctic

I leave the Grapevine HQ at about 19:30 and head straight to the Nordic House that houses Arctic Waves, a celebration of music from the Arctic regions. Arctic Waves is free for Iceland Airwaves wristband holders, while without the wristband, admission costs 2,000 ISK per night.

Having lived in the far north of Finland, I have travelled all over the most remote regions of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and even Greenland. About seven years ago, over the Easter break, my friend and I hitchhiked to Tromsø, and on the way, we stopped in Karasjok, or Kárášjohka, basically the capital of the Sami people in the region. It was then that I learned more about their culture and people.

As I think about this, I put on my mittens (bought from a Sami handicrafts shop somewhere in Lapland), and I jump on a Hopp (the closest thing to teleportation in town).

The artist I’m seeing at Arctic Waves tonight is Katarina Barruk, a Swedish Sámi singer, songwriter, and pianist. Katarina sings in the Ume Sámi language, now spoken by less than a dozen native speakers, according to Wikipedia. UNESCO put Ume Sámi on its endangered list, and since then, things have slowly changed for the better. Katarina says from the stage that seeing little kids playing in Ume Sámi makes her feel how far things have come. It was something she couldn’t do as a kid.

Katarina sings joiks, deeply personal traditional Sami songs, and while I don’t understand a word, I feel connected to her people – fighting for their language and culture for years.

You can still catch Katarina Barruk at Iceland Airwaves on Saturday at 22:00.

If you want to learn more about the indigenous Sami people, I recommend checking out Let The River Flow, now screening at Bíó Paradís.

A scent adventure

Next up, I take my trusty plus one for the night (a scooter that most definitely needs maintenance) and hurry up to Iðnó. There, a family-run perfumery called Fischersund and their publisher INNI have put on a feast for your nose.

“Could I spray you?” I’m asked at the entrance, and I immediately agree, laughing at the people in line in front of me, who were nothing but confused. It’s not a clumsy pick-up, but a genuine offer. I’m not sure about them, but now I smell like Reykjavík in the old days.

Kjartan Holm and Sin Fang put on a sensual show with new songs, including their latest releases from Sounds of Sleep, while Lilja Birgisdóttir told the audience the story behind the perfume that accompanied the concert. Visitors from abroad have surely never been to a similar event before!

The night is almost done

It’s just 21:00, but I’m starting to head in the direction of home, stopping at 12 Tónar for one last gig. The venue is packed, with both young and senior residents sipping their beers and swaying to the energising tunes of KUSK & Óviti. The 20-year-old KUSK has been compared to Arlo Parks in the past, and while we absolutely love Arlo, there’s something about KUSK that makes you want to add her to your playlist. Both she and her musical partner Óviti are releasing new songs tomorrow, so make sure to give them a listen and grab a fresh copy of Friday’s Grapevine to read about how these young musicians make a living.

Follow along with our Iceland Airwaves 2023 coverage right here.

Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!

Show Me More!