Iceland has had a tough run these past few years, what with its financial crisis since 2008, and the sudden eruption of Eyjafjallajökull not too long ago. The island has pretty much been non-existent to many before all these hoo-ha. I’m sure most of you don’t even give your two cents about Iceland until the volcano exploded, stranded millions in Europe because of its monstrous plume, and humoured the rest of the world with its almost impossible to pronounce name. I don’t blame you; when I was a kid, I used to think Iceland is equivalent to that of Antarctic – nothing but glaciers of whites as far as the eyes can see, and people as Eskimos living in igloos.
Iceland is more than that. He is the mirror image of that muscle that beats your heartbeat. He is the sunset at 11PM, and the sunrise at 3AM. He is the steamy embrace of the mighty Gullfoss, and the symphonic Northern Lights when lovers meet at the equinox. He has a face of pure and heavenly innocence, but an eerie and worned out world when you stare deeper into his eyes; not unlike a young 21-year-old who’s seen too many heartaches and hopelessness. He is the place geniuses think about when they write music. He is the second home to Damien Rice, and home to Sigur Rós. I’d like to believe that if one could see music, Iceland will look a lot like Vaka, Samskeyti and Fljótavík.
Last week, halfway across the world, there was a free concert dedicated to the people of Iceland. Anyone who has once claimed the island to be their home went on stage for Iceland Inspires that day, singing of hope and comfort – inspiration.
The concert opened with the dreamy and surreal sounds of Amiina, Sigur Rós’ strong sisters in arms, like a gradual wake up call to the nation. There was also a traditional ensemble of Steindór Andersen, Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson and Páll á Húsafelli, paired with the more contemporary harmonies of Hafdís Huld, Dikta, Lay Low and Seabear.
By day, everyone huddles together as Damien Rice and Glen Hansard serenade the crowd with their beat up guitars the beloved The Blowers’ Daughter and Leave, respectively. And as night swallows Reykjavík, Spiritualized‘s acoustic mainlines finishes up with profound gospels, lifting the city up into the floating space: “All I want in life’s a little bit of love to take the pain away.”
It is a concert of returning favours, from the people who have been inspired by Iceland, thanking him for inspiring them when they were once hopeless and lost.
To the land I could only dream of stepping foot on someday, I wish you well in days to come. I hope to one day see you face to face, kiss your rain-damped pavements as your mid-Atlantic air wipes my tears away.
Here is my favourite set off the Iceland Inspires concert: a powerful orchestra of Damien Rice, Glen Hansard, Lára Runnarsdottir and Lay Low with their rendition of Iceland’s folk lullaby, Sofðu Unga Ástin Mín.