Icelandic Music: Who, Where, When

Icelandic Music: Who, Where, When

Angie Diamantopoulou Author

Text by: Angie Diamantopoulou

Are you interested in Icelandic music? Maybe you want a road trip playlist filled with Icelandic songs to listen to while you explore Iceland? Then this guide is for you!

Up until recently, if you asked people about Icelandic music, they would probably mention Björk, or maybe even Of Monsters And Men (not to be confused with Of Mice & Men) if they were more knowledgeable in music.

However, with Hatari making recent waves on the international stage, maybe you are curious to learn a little more about Icelandic music

As with every other art, Iceland's music scene is quite rich and diverse. So, keep reading to find out everything you need to know about Icelandic music!


Before we get deep into this guide on Icelandic music, let's first take a look at what you can find in this blog:

  • a little background on Icelandic music
  • what are some Icelandic bands?
  • what are some must-listen Icelandic songs?
  • where are the best music stores in Reykjavik?
  • what are the best music festivals in Iceland?
  • some tips from a local!
  • don't miss out!

    Our tours are booked weeks or even months in advance! Make sure you secure your spot ahead of time!


what the hell is a hatari?

icelandic music hatari

Icelandic music history isn't that complicated; at least not when it comes to mainstream music. First, there was Björk, then there was Of Monsters And Men, and then there was Eurovision 2019 (for all the non-Europeans reading this, Eurovision is a mix between a support group for neighboring countries and our version of a Cold War).

Even if you are not European, you might have heard of Hatari and the controversy that surrounds them. Maybe you even saw them in John Oliver! So, what the hell is a Hatari?

Hatari is an "award-winning, anti-capitalist, BDSM, techno-dystopian, performance art collective". A mouthful? Yes, but an accurate mouthful. In my opinion, "performance art" are the key words here. The group is much more than a band, as betrayed by their perfectly crafted image and their activism.

Naturally, due to their BDSM outfits, pro-Palestine opinions, and provocative attitude in Eurovision, a contest known for its frilly "Love, Love, Peace, Peace" content, they caused quite a stir. However, those who don't think their song Hatrið Mun Sigra is about love and peace are mistaken.

You come to Hatari for the controversy. You stay for the insane vocals, deep techno beats, and the fact that everything they do as Hatari, even the way they stare, is perfectly crafted art.


best icelandic bands

So, what are some of the best bands that the Icelandic music scene has to offer? Keep reading to find out!

While Hatari is definitely one of the best bands in Iceland, I have already covered them, so they won't be in this list. Do listen to them though, and maybe take a look at the translation of their lyrics, as they are true poetry.

1. VÖK​

icelandic music vok

With lo-fi beats and a funky sax, Vök is the music equivalent of stormy afternoons. Recently, they have made a turn towards more pop sounds, but they still retain their original, poetic identity that has made them so popular. 

The band is comprised by multi-instrumentalists ​Margrét Rán, Andri Már, and Einar Stefansson (the drummer for Hatari!), and they are not only amazing artists, but also awesome people!

One of the bands that were mainly known abroad, recently they have become increasingly popular in Iceland, as well. Give them a listen, and you will see why!​


2. FRIÐRIK DÓR

icelandic music fridrik dor

A staple of the mainstream Icelandic music scene, Friðrik Dór creates music for the masses, but that is not a bad thing. Everyone can listen to his R&B and pop sounds, and his songs have a rare universal appeal.

A singer, songwriter and instrumentalist, Friðrik Dór is a musical powerhouse, and has been involved with music since a young age.


3. SYKUR

best icelandic music sykur

If you have joined our Reykjavik Food tour, you might know Sykur from our awesome guide Agnes Björt, who is also a member of the group! If not, maybe it´s time to join the tour (book here!)

​Sykur became very famous in Iceland, but perhaps for the wrong song. Their single Viltu Dick became an immediate hit with locals when it was released. However, the song is not indicative of the band's sound.

Listen to them for their eclectic electro sound, which makes them perhaps the only band of their kind in Iceland; at least of that high quality.


4. JóiPé x Króli

joipe x kroli

A duo that rose to fame as teenagers, JóiPé and Króli are much beloved in Iceland. They have racked up over one million streams on Spotify, and if you go to a club in downtown Reykjavik, you are bound to hear a couple of their songs.

Hip hop and trap are their signature sounds, but they also have more pop songs. Their single B.O.B.A. is perhaps their magnum opus, so be prepared to sing along if a local starts playing it.​


must-listen icelandic songs

So, what are some Icelandic songs that you absolutely must listen to? Well, I have made a playlist for you! Hopefully you will like it enough to have it as a companion on your trip around Iceland!​


best music stores in reykjavik

Reykjavik is a city with a lively music scene. A lively music scene can only be accompanied by the cream of the crop of record stores!

So, keep reading to find out what are the best record stores in Reykjavik!

1. 12 TÓNAR​

best record stores reykjavik

Operating in Skólavörðustígur 15 since 1998, 12 Tónar is a classic in Reykjavik. The staff here will happily give you suggestions based on your personal preferences, and trust me; you can trust them. They are very knowledgeable, and they will recommend something you will love!


2. MENGI

best record stores reykjavik mengi

Exhibition space by day and performance space by night, this artist-run establishment is worth paying a visit if you like independent, experimental art

You will find a carefully curated collection of local indie artists, both in the music industry, as well as other disciplines. Head out to Oðinsgata 2 to get a taste of their collection.


3. KÓLAPORTIÐ

Kolaportid flea market

Iceland's only flea market is home to several second-hand record stalls (and you can also find some gems hidden among old lamps and books). Be prepared to spend hours looking through endless crates of records. It´s impossible to resist!

Kólaportið is in Tryggvagata 19, but beware; it is only open on weekends


best music festivals in iceland

Iceland is home to several festivals that host bands from a range of different genres. There is something for everyone to enjoy, and you can find festivals all year round!​

Check out the best music festivals you can find in Iceland in 2019!​

1. SECRET SOLSTICE​

summer festivals in Iceland secret solstice

Secret Solstice is the biggest festival in Reykjavik, and the second biggest in all of Iceland. As the name suggests, it takes place during the summer solstice, from the 21st to the 23rd of June, so you can enjoy literally endless days of music under a midnight sun!

Their line-up includes both international and local acts, as well as big names and up and coming artists. With a variety of bands and music genres, Secret Solstice has something for everyone.

At 19900 ISK (160 USD) for a full weekend pass, and with big names like Rita Ora and The Black Eyed Peas in 2019, Secret Solstice is worth experiencing!​


2. ICELAND AIRWAVES

iceland airwaves

With some big-name acts and many up and coming artists, Iceland Airwaves is perhaps the best music festival in Iceland (don't tell a local, it's a controversial opinion!)

Yet another festival with a wide range of genres, Iceland Airwaves will leave anyone satisfied. The 2019 line-up includes acts like ​Mac Demarco, Vök, Hatari, and many more. 

The festival takes place from the 6th to the 9th of November, and a ticket costs 16900 ISK (135 USD).​


3. EISTNAFLUG

Eistnaflug festival

Eistnaflug is a little different from the other festivals in our list. First of all, it takes place in Neskaupstaður in East Iceland. Second, the line-up includes the créme de la créme of the Icelandic rock and metal scene

Unless you are already a fan of this niche, you probably won´t know any of the bands. However, it is worth checking out if you like rock and metal, as the bands are amazing and the atmosphere is unbeatable!​


some tips from a local

Every local in Iceland will know of a band that no one else does! So, make sure that you use their wisdom and knowledge, and ask them about their favorite bands! You can find so many hidden gems that way, and who knows? Maybe you will end up being a big fan of Icelandic music!

As far as music festivals are concerned, make sure you book your tickets in advance! The earlier you book, the cheaper the prices, so you will be doing your wallet a favor! Follow the festivals' accounts on social media, and stay updated on the early bird packages!​


some final words

I hope you enjoyed my guide, as well as the Icelandic bands and music that I suggested! Let me know if you used the playlist on your road trip around Iceland!

Is there an Icelandic band that you really like that I didn't mention? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, don't forget to share!​

Are you interested in Icelandic music? Maybe you want a road trip playlist filled with Icelandic songs to listen to while you explore Iceland? Then this guide is for you!

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