Article Iceland

Article Iceland by Jordi Pujolá Spanish writer in Iceland

With the support of  Icelandic Mountain Guides (discount 15% day tours using code ESCRITOR2018) and Iceland Rovers

Fotos by Leana Clothier @vinesunshine

Read the full interview in Spanish

Article Iceland

5th Edition Secret Solstice Iceland, a music (96 hrs) festival in down town Reykjavik, under the midnight sun, growing every year (from 8000 people in 2014 to 15000 in 2018), an important number comparing the little population of Iceland (340.000 inhabitants)

Besides, the 10 % of the population went to Russia for the World Cup. Icelanders splashed out all their savings to support their National team

Article Iceland clasificación en el Mundial de la selección
Article Iceland Secret Solstice coincidió con el estreno en el Mundial

Article Iceland Secret Solstice

The famous rapper Blaz Roca has been in all the editions of the festival but this one

Why?

“Because I´ll be doing what all the decent Icelanders should do: going to Russia and support our National Team on the World cup!”

The Icelanders are used to the bad weather, from the first were dancing under the rain, but for foreigners took a whole day to realise that waiting for the sun at the cafeteria was wasting time

Reportaje Islandia lluvia en Secret Solstice
Article Iceland the rain was not a problem

The Icelanders are used to living with foreigners. According to the statistics, more than 2 million tourists visit the island every year. And in the Second World War, the army of the USA and UK sent 50.000 men to avoid a Nazi invasion

The most popular restaurant is a hot dog station by the old harbour

Iceland is in the middle of Europe and North America and that had a huge influence on Icelanders´s habits, such us they like big automatic cars, kids speak fluently English and they love burgers and hot dogs, but made them in Iceland. Mc Donald´s is closed from 2009 (you can see the last burger sold there in Bus Hostel like a relic) and the Icelandic hot dog (pylsa) contains meat from Icelandic lamb and pork. The old station by the harbour is very famous and even President Clinton paid a visit (among other celebrities) to it

Not long time ago, all the kids, during the summer vacation, went at least once to the ship factories to work with the fish on the high seas

Icelanders are used to the bad weather, from the first were dancing under the rain, but for foreigners took a whole day to realise that waiting for the sun at the cafeteria was wasting time. The beers´ cans (people drank them as water) were spread and smashed on the grass. Those drinks didn’t´t need refrigerator, the temperature was around 10 ºC. Welcome to the Icelandic summer!

Reportaje Islandia Secret Solstice la lluvia protagonista
Reportaje Islandia el primer día nos sorprendió la lluvia

In Iceland the enemy is not the snow nor the snow or rain, it´s the win that sometimes goes over 100 km/h and flies off the barbecues on the balconies

I asked Daði Freyr Guðjónsson, dancer of the TV show Allir að vera dansa (everyone goes to dance) which was the best band in the festival and he said: I would say Gentleman´s Dub Club gave us the best live performance I have never seen  –his friends nod unanimously-, we almost forgot that we have to buy new shoes tomorrow -he says laughing and looking sadly at the mud puddles

The venue of the Secret Solstice is in the area of Laugardalur. However, the wind spreads the music for all the city. Some neighbours complained, but you can´t please everyone. In Iceland the enemy is not the snow nor the the rain, it´s the win that sometimes goes over 100 km/h and flies off the barbecues on the balconies. Anyway, the seagulls went on flying around the fog, but it was not fog, it was the fumes of the food stations

Reportaje Islandia entrada Secret Solstice 2018
Reportaje Islandia primer día de festival

The funniest thing was when despite the strict controls on the entrance, one beggar jumped over the security fence and went in with a hen

Reportaje Islandia gallina invitada Secret Solstice
Reportaje Islandia curiosidades

Einar Stefánsson, the drummer of Vök and Hatari, says that Björk lives in Iceland because Icelanders respect her privicy

From the 21th to the 24th June, the 6 stages of Secret Solstice, each one had the name of a Nordic God (Valhalla, Gimli, Askur, Fenrir, Ragnarok and Hel), were part of a small town (instead of ramparts had fences) where people slept (camp site area), relaxed in the swimming pool nearby (Arnór Dan, singer of Agent Fresco says pools are better and cheaper than The Blue Lagoon), bought (even there was a shop for phones and gadgets), ate (the price of a burger was 1850 ISK, 15€), drank, got a tattoo (I don´t recommend it under the effect of several beers), danced, saw the artists very close…

Interview to VÖK

The Icelanders are shy by nature and don´t usually stand on front of the stage. Einar Stefánsson, the drummer of Vök and Hatari, says that Björk lives in Iceland because Icelanders respect her privacy. For example, the President of Iceland doesn´t have any bodyguard and you can see him in IKEA buying a liner

Reportaje Islandia todo tipo de tiendas y tattoos
Iceland article summer

Another anecdote, on the Vestmannaeyjar´s football tournament for kids (read the article) Guðni Jóhannesson, the President of Iceland, was in one of the outside hot pots of the public swimming pool, he was alone with Lilja Alfreðsdóttir (Minister of Education), but I was pretty sure it was a spontaneous casual meeting; however, no one dared to go and interrupt them, except for a couple of tourists that of course didn´t have any idea of whom they were and all the Icelanders burst into laughter

The high quality of the bands in Secret Solstice

One thing on common of all the editions of Secret Solstice is the high quality of the bands. Daði Freyr Guðjónsson says: «We had last year the Foo Fighters and Prodigy, and  this Slayer (final tour), Stormy, Death From Above 1979, Bonnie Tyler, Jet Black Joe, Gus Gus, Steve Aoki, HAM, John Acquaviva, Agent Fresco…»

Reportaje Islandia Secret Solstice Jói Pé og Króli
Reportaje Islandia Jói Pé og Króli

By the way, one of the best things about these kind of music festivals is to discover new bands. Icelandic artists are quite accessible and they frequently interact with the audience. Arnór Dan, leader of Agent Fresco, went down from stage, jumped out the containment fence (in the eyes of disbelief of the bouncers), and started taking selfies with his fans. Rakel Mjöll, intrepid singer of Dream Wife, approached so much the audience than she fell down from the stage to the floor. Luckily she was not seriously hurt

Reportaje Islandia Agent Fresco Secret Solstice selfie
Reportaje Islandia Arnór Dan de Agent Fresco

Nevertheless, there are always some last minute cancellations. For instance, Ólafur Þór, a tall young boy with curly hair was very disappointed because he bought the ticket only to see the rapper J HUS (UK), but he was arrested at the airport for having a gun and couldn´t make it

Novels by Jordi Pujolá (pulsa)

Reportaje Islandia Rakel Mjoll de Dreamwife
Reportaje Islandia Rakel Mjöll se cayó del escenario

The ones who drank a lot and turned on the automatic refill of their chips probably had the worst hangover on their lives, the Icelandic Króna is very high (price of one beer 1000 ISK= 8 €)

It´s a matter of fact that Icelanders don´t use cash any more, you can buy even a candy bar with the credit card and no one is going to wail for that. However, in this occasion, credit cards were not accepted to buy any more, the customers had to use a bracelet with a chip they recharged with the App of the festival. So the ones who drank a lot and turned on the automatic refill of their chips probably had the worst hangover on their lives, the Icelandic Króna is very high (price of one beer 1000 ISK= 8€)

The city is like a circus: see and to be seen

In the morning the Hallgrímskirkja church,  Harpa (the futuristic Music Hall), the pond by the City Hall, Faxaflói bay, the restaurants in Hlemur… were full of people from 32 different countries, you saw they were from Secret Solstice Festival because their green and violet hair, piercings, make up, tattoos, punk-hippy-rapper style, fur coats combined with skirts, football long sockets and white sneakers… a circus similar I used to see in Sonar Barcelona

Reportaje Islandia Secret Solstice gente disfrazada
Reportaje Islandia público diverso en Secret Solstice

Secret Solstice planned concerts under the glacier (Langjökull) and inside the lava cave Raufarhólshellir

Reykjavik is a very cosmopolitan city with many attractions; nevertheless, to be in Iceland and not going outside to see the dramatic landscapes and nature is almost a sin

For this reason, Secret Solstice planned concerts under the glacier Langjökull (120 tickets price 34.900 ISK) and inside the biggest lava cave Raufarhólshellir (only 50 tickets price 25.900 ISK)

«I didn´t know it was possible to set up a discotheque inside the glacier with alcoholic drinks. Dubfire (the DJ) was outstanding», one excited Canadian girl told me

Myvatn Islandia zona geotérmica Hveraströnd
Reportaje Islandia zona geotérmica

Traditions in Iceland

Though it doesn´t seem like that, Iceland still depends a lot on the countryside economy (fishing and farming) and just a few miles from the city you find many animals (such as horses (they are unique, they have 5 steps instead of 3, and the ones that go abroad can not come back any more in order of preserving the breed)  cows or sheep) on the road (if you run over one, you have to call the police to identify the owner and pay for it), villages of less than 50 inhabitants (all they have a church with a cemetery on the side)… Not long time ago, it was almost compulsory  for teenagers to go in summer (on their school vacation)  to work open sea in a fish factory ship

Reportaje Islandia el caballlo de Islandia
Reportaje Islandia caballlos islandeses

Carpe Diem. The music festival passes by as fast as the summer in Iceland

It´s a kind of privilege to enjoy the concerts outdoors in an area that is totally covered by snow and ice in winter. Skaði, burlesque artist, says in her performance that the motto of the festival is Carpe Diem. The 96 hours of music pass as fast as the summer  in Iceland (sometimes it doesn´t show up at all). There is a bit of darkness, only from 12 AM to 2 AM, and to lower the curtains is necessary  (they are not frequent in Iceland) to sleep a bit

The crazy weather in Iceland

When the good weather pays a visit to Iceland, everyone stops whatever is doing and goes downtown and have some beers at the outside tables of the bars facing Austurvöllur Square (even if it´s Monday and they have to work next day), shops put a board on the door saying: “closed for good weather”, the whole city smells of BBQ and  there is a long line on the Government store to buy alcoholic drinks

Reykjavik Islandia terrazas de verano
Reportaje Islandia día soleaado en Reykjavik

Javi Valiño, dancer, deejay and Spanish entrepreneur (Audiovisuales Gs Prods Media Group) has been living in Iceland for 6 years and performed twice in Secret Solstice with the hip hop band Þriðja Hæðin, for him, the most shocking of the midnight sun is to enjoy 20 non stop  hours of daylight

¿What is different from other music festivals in Iceland?

Blaz Roca (Erpur Eyvindarson), rap´s father Iceland (the successful new rappers (Jói Pé og Krói, Ulfur Ulfur, Aron Kan…) are around 18 years old) is an uncommon Icelander, he smokes Cuba cigars at home and has a bar full of bottles of rum with a big picture of Maradona on the top. He had a TV show where he made fun of his guests

“There are only 4 important music festivals in Iceland and Secret Solstice has the best of everyone: quality of the bands of Airwaves, electronic music of Sonar and the let´s get drunk and get some music as well of Þjóhátið (party outdoors on crazy weekend of beginning August)”

Icelandic women admit they also go hunting and get drunk

It sounds a bit strange coming from so a civilise country as Iceland; however, they have a poor culture of alcohol: either they don´t drink a drop alcohol (BAC is almost 0) or they get drunk until they pass out. Beer was forbidden till 1989 and Icelanders used to get drunk at the airport and the plane when going on holiday

Reportaje Islandia chicas islandesas en Secret Solstice
Reportaje Islandia las chicas son guerreras

I asked one Icelandic girl, tall and blond, she works as a bartender in one of the mos famous cocktail bars in Reykjavik, what band she is going to see next and her answer was:

«Just ask my friends, man. I came here to get drunk»

This video is over 40.800 visits on Instagram @jordipujola

In a party, you can talk to everyone even the president, what is more complicated is they remember that conversation next day

A friend of mine who has lived in Iceland for many years told me that, in a party, you can talk to everyone even the president, what is more complicated is they remember that conversation next day

Iceland had the first woman First Minister (Vigdís Finnbogadóttir), the first lesbian First Minister (Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir) and the current First Minister is a woman as well, Katrín Jakobsdóttir

The women´s bands succeeded in Secret Solstice: Vicky (read the interview), Ása, Una Stef, Skaði, GDRN, Dream Wife… (Rakel Mjöll, the singer, has a provocative style like Joy Division and has a great future as Björk). To summarise: Girls have also the right to get drunk and have fun in the concerts

Interview to HAM: I don´t think the average of Icelanders have a good taste for music

When I asked Sigurjón, singer and guitarist of  HAM (read the interview) and screenwriter of the famous serial Trapped, why Iceland always fails in Eurovision, he said that the people who make and choose the songs, are very fine doctors and dentists from Gardabær (the most posh neighbourhood in Reykjavik), but they don´t have any idea of music

Reportaje Islandia actuación grupo HAM
Reportaje Islandia HAM es banda tradicional actores y políticos

Here no one will criticise you for leaving a good job and look for something new or more exciting when you are over forty

The other singer and guitarist, Börn Blondal, he is the current Chairman of the Chief Executive Board of Reykjavik City Council (Óttar Proppé, the former Health Minister, is in the band as well), said: “as we are few Icelanders, we have to work more and to take more jobs per person. If you choose a certain path, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stay in it for the whole life, you can change directions or take detours. We have the freedom of changing opinions because how few we are. People are used to it. Here no one will criticise you for leaving a good job and look for something new or more exciting even you are over forty

I would add that the cost of living is so high that a lot of people have to take different jobs to survive

Reportaje Islandia Björn Blondal jefe de la mesa del Ayuntamiento Reykjavik
Reportaje Islandia Björn Blondal de HAM

“In the 80´s Iceland started to open to the world and we were seeing more cultures of another nations, people were going abroad more, so the world became bigger, so I would say that the period was a melting pot, not only for the artists,  we kind of believed that everything is possible” Sjón, friend and composer of Böjrk said basically the same (read the interview)

Reportaje Islandia entrevista HAM Secret Solstice backstage
Reportaje Islandia entrevista a HAM en backstage

Sigurjón says he wouldn´t be shocked at all if Katrín Jakobsdóttir might, in the future, took a little different turn and write crime novels 

The Icelanders don´t see as many barriers to reach their dreams as the Spaniards

Öttar Fjordnordur, Icelandic writer who lives in Barcelona, agrees about the freedom the Icelanders have to choose their lives: «We don´t see so many problems as the Spaniards do, if we want something, at least we try»

The most of Icelandic bands don´t make a living from music

Icelandic market is very small. Arnór Dan, Agent Fresco´s leader, said: “except for a lucky few, making a living from music in Iceland is very difficult (the most of us have another job) because the scale of population. For example, in Agent Fresco, we have been working hard for 10 tears, doing great tours, having so much fun,  but still not near to be able to live about it at all, you know; people are in the music for their passion, that´s may be the key reason to why some of the Icelandic music sounds so unique, we don´t do it for the money”

Reportaje Islandia Agent Fresco en concierto SecretSolstice
Reportaje Islandia concierto Agent Fresco

Conclusion

My conclusion is surprising: Iceland has a reputation for high standard of living, but on the other hand, Icelanders have to work a lot and hold different jobs

Interview Agent Fresco 

Hálldór Már (read the interview), the Icelandic guitarist who speaks fluently Catalan and has a TV show in Catalonia, started playing in pubs and said that earning money from music is very hard everywhere (the bars pay a pittance)

The loudest band in Iceland

Another advantage of the concerts outdoors is the waves expand freely on the sky and the noisy bands can press the gas limitless. The Pink Street Boys got the aware to the loudest band in Iceland. I didn´t know it, but when I was on the first line with no earplugs I almost died

Article Iceland entrevista Pink Street Boys
Article Iceland saludando a Axel de Pink Street Boys

Interview Pink Street Boys

Unfounded rumours about Iceland

I am still amazed by the unfounded rumours on the Net

One colleague from South America asked me in the press room if it was true the Icelandic Government paid a grant to all the foreigners who married an Icelandic girl. Of course I said it´s not true

Young rappers of Iceland

We listened to different kind of music during several days, but the rappers had a great success, especially the Icelandic, most of them are not over 18 years old. I interviewed:

  • Jói Pé og Króli: Iceland is a big family, the first one is the nephew of the President and the second made a song from the mistake that one of the most famous musicians in Iceland, Bubi Morthens, made on the radio (He said bomba in Spanish, but spelled B-O-B-A, without M)

    Reportage Islandia Jordi Pujolá y Jóipé og Króli en Secret Solstice
    Reportaje Islandia con los jovencícimos raperos Jóipé og Króli
  • Aron Can: His experience in Spain is in Lloret de Mar, a touristic spot in Catalonia, I asked him for the best food he had and answered pizza

    Reportaje Islandia Aron Can y Jordi Pujolà en Secret Solstice
    Reportaje Islandia el famoso Aron Can y Jordi Pujolà
  • Úlfur Úlfur: The boys from the North, they say Iceland should spread the tourism because currently is all concentrated on the South Coast and Golden Circle. Wise words, I agree. Read the interview

    Article Iceland Ulfur Ulfur Rap Islandia hablando con Helgi Gudmundsson y Arnar Freyr en Secret Solstice
    Article Iceland Ulfur Ulfur Rap Islandia hablando con Helgi Gudmundsson y Arnar Freyr Frostason

This article is part of the project La Contra Islandia (pulsa), that tries to put in contact Spanish and Icelandic cultures

Article Islandia with the support of Icelandic Mountain Guides, Iceland Rovers (tailor trips) and Secret Soltice

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