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Get this, get the essence

EPI and I have just come back from one fantastic concert: Hinn Íslenski þursaflokkur with the Caput ensemble, performing at Laugardalshöll arena.

This was their 30th anniversary concert and they reassembled for just this one night, having disbanded in 1982. The Laugardalshöll was packed [it takes around 5,500 people, according to Wikipedia], which gives some indication of their popularity, even today. Truly, they are one of the best, if not the best, Icelandic bands ever. They’re one of those cultural treasures that mirror a sense of identity, strength and pride. Their sound resonates in the heart and consciousness of everyone who has their roots here. I’m not sure foreigners would get them in the same way … I’m just not sure – but I would venture to say that to really truly get the soul of Iceland, you have to get this band.

Basically, when they started they took ancient folk songs and ancient text, and transposed them into the 20th century, without losing any of their ‘folky roots’ – ach! I dislike that phrase, so generic … let’s say, without losing any of their ‘unique Icelandicness’.* Their sound is one that I think every Icelander responds to because it evokes the isolation, the melancholy, the remarkable tenacity and resilience of the people who eked out a living here in centuries past. My absolute favourite song of theirs is Grafskript – a sung composition of an exquisitely beautiful text found on a gravestone from 1763. You can see them perform it – with Caput – on Kastljós [a few days ago] here.

Anyway, the concert was amazing, the band was stupendous, and Egill Ólafsson – ‘band leader’ for lack of a better term, was funny, warm and completely engaging – like he was entertaining 5,500 of his best friends at home in his living room. I don’t like this [overused] word, but I’ll use it tonight: AWESOME.

-2°C [28F] to be exact, and the sun comes up later today at 8.59 am and sets at 6.25 pm.

* Mind you, some of their later material was a bit more modern – they composed music for the stage, for example, which isn’t really of the same ilk.