Is Bjoerk Inuit

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Björk and Co - Iceland, the people of singers Folk songs in the charts

11/28/2017 by Susanne Schmerda

The Icelanders are happy to sing, there are over 300 choirs in the small country: the start of their careers for many musicians. The only 340,000 inhabitants of the island in the North Atlantic proudly maintain their traditions. The program "conrapunkt" presents an overview of the Icelandic music scene on November 30th.

Even today, epic singers wander from one farm to another in winter and keep the old language and the diverse folk poetry unadulterated in their songs for generations. And Björk brings folk songs with a new sound into the pop charts: Traditional songs such as the love song "Augun mín og augun þín" ("My eyes and your eyes") on her single "Possibly Maybe" in 1996 or an a-cappella Version of the song "Vökuró" (Night Watch) in 2004 on the album "Medúlla" to unexpected fame. On her recently released new CD "Utopia", the Icelander, who experimented with Inuit throat singing as well as with avant-garde techno sounds, dares to look into the future of a fantasy matriarchy including solemn chants and soulful flute and harp sounds.

Rap in the 14th century

The fact that Björk Guðmundsdóttir has always had a sense for popular folk songs is explained by the history of the country. Because Iceland can look back on a very long tradition of poetry and verse, the a cappella chants Tvísöngur and Rímur have been around since the 14th century, with their fixed rhyme scheme they are a kind of early rap. Only this strong vocal tradition existed for centuries; musical instruments were only added much later, in the middle of the 19th century.

Proud of tradition

Icelandic football fans | Source: picture-alliance / dpa Every child in Iceland knows the traditional cradle and rhyme songs because they were sung by their mother or played in kindergarten. Composers, pop and heavy metal bands also use the old folk songs as a matter of course, simply because they are firmly anchored in everyday life. And songs and poems played an important role in Iceland's struggle for independence from Norwegian and later in the 19th century from Danish supremacy: "We could be proud of our tradition and had to build on something in order to maintain our identity after independence find ", sums up the Icelandic harpist Gunnhildur Einarsdóttir, who lives in Berlin. "The songs, poems and stories were very close."

Small and experimental scene

"We still sing very old songs and don't even notice that they are particularly old. It's just the children's songs that we sing," explains Gunnhildur Einarsdóttir. And in a music scene that is relatively small, but very keen to experiment, it is not uncommon for musicians to be enormously versatile in terms of style and for a rapper to appear in the opera.

Like in Bavaria: Iceland loves its brass bands

Marching band in Iceland | Image source: Össur Geirsson In addition to singing and their love of old folk songs, the Icelanders burn for another musical passion: their marching bands, in which they play in parades across the country on special holidays, adults and young people together. They present Icelandic and international songs; Admirers and listeners join the brass band with flags and balloons, whatever the weather. It can happen that the notes blow away! These wind orchestras are given special support at school, with one hour of individual lessons and two orchestral rehearsals per week.

Summer songs even in the snow

The first Icelandic wind orchestra was founded in 1876, today there are 49 brass bands, which form in parades in Reykjavik as well as in the country, even if it is only a small group of musicians. You can also experience these parades on a very special holiday, when the first day of summer is welcomed early, namely at the end of April. Weather-wise not without risk, as the soprano María Konráðsdóttir, who once started with the clarinetist in such a wind band at the age of nine, points out: "Anyone who knows the weather in Iceland knows that we sometimes still have snow at this time of the year. Back then I always thought it was really funny that we welcomed the summer, played happy summer songs and walked through the snow! "

Broadcast: "contrapunkt - Dialogue of Cultures" on November 30, 2017, from 8:03 p.m. on BR-KLASSIK.