Perhaps it's Iceland's extremes -- unlit winter days, undarkened
summer nights and a vast landscape populated with just 300,000
inhabitants -- that set the stage for such remarkable innovation
and unusual collaboration by the country's best-known musicians.
Reykjavik, the nation's capital and home to most of the country's
inhabitants, has become a creative cauldron for production of
some of the most interesting music being made anywhere today.
The world first began to take notice of the vibrant sounds coming
from Iceland in 1988 with the Sugarcubes, a quirky alternative
rock band whose lead singer, Bjork, went on to become the country's
biggest international star. Her unique voice and eclectic style
set a new standard, shaking up rigid categories in pop music.
As Bjork showed, Icelanders may not be completely reinventing
music -- but they're certainly reinterpreting it. They seem
reluctant to mimic American and European trends and more willing
to try something new. The next wave of the country's musicians
has challenged pop music conventions, prompting critics and
fans alike to rethink how they listen.
Independent radio stations in Iceland play quite a bit of commercial,
mainstream music, so the prime showcase for talent has become
the Icelandic Airwaves Festival. Sigur Rós played at
the first Airwaves Festival, in 1999, and has since moved on
to international critical acclaim.
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Written by Aerin Wison with additional
reporting by Sheraz Sadiq. All Mum and Sigur Rós photos
courtesy Aerin Wilson.
Producer: Angela Morgenstern; Designed
Studios; see full
Freelance writer and photographer Aerin
Wilson runs the online zine Music
Sheraz Sadiq is Associate Producer for