Iceland Airwaves isn’t just musical artists. Tonight the experimental poet Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl took the stage at Harpa Kaldalón. He read two works from a collection of poems he plans to release next year. He called the first “A Poem About Visibility.” It spoke about feeling alone in a world consumed with social media. He repeatedly mentioned the eyes, using lines such as, “the eyes of the beholder, each with its own agenda” and we are “forced to breathe through our pupils.” His second poem was titled “A Poem About Priorities.” It listed numerous problems in our world today and explained why no one thing can be a priority. He explained, “mass murders are better than genocide,” but both must be stopped because “one cannot preclude the other.” While the content of both poems was rich, Norðdahl read both poems off of an electronic tablet and rarely looked up to the audience. He relied on his poetry’s content to reach his audience rather than the quality of his performance. His performance was not weak, but Norðdahl could certainly have worked on producing a performance as powerful as his poetry.
Meanwhile, the indie-pop duet RuGl delivered a set powerful enough to give its audience goosebumps. They had such a sophisticated delivery that it’s shocking to know they are only 14 years old. In fact, the girls Ragnheiður María Benediktsdóttir and Guðlaug Fríða Helgadóttir Folkmann are two friends from school. One of the songs they performed, “Marina,” was originally written as a class project on Marina Abramović. That being said, nothing about their performance was elementary. Their strategic vocal arrangements could challenge those of experienced show choirs. During the a cappella bridge of “Marina,” Folkmann began to sing “without saying no” repeatedly. Then as Folkmann grew more and more passionate and started to crescendo, Benediktsdóttir joined in until they finally broke into the song’s powerful chorus. These girls may be young, but they are not amateur.
NASA had a seasoned professional playing tonight. The Congolese rapper Baloji took the stage with an energetic pose that only comes naturally to an artist who has played over 200 live shows all over the world. His music is hard to pigeonhole in one genre. It is a variation of reggae music if reggae music met with hip-hop at the crossroads of soul, funk, jazz and electronic music. On stage, he never stopped moving. Introducing one song, Baloji announced, “I love to dance, but our stage is like ice.” Then he asked the audience to dance for him instead. Even then, Baloji couldn’t contain himself. He continued to dance until he slipped and fell over a speaker on stage. Baloji happily delivered the rest of the verse laying flat on his back and staring up at his bass player. Then he got back up and danced again like nothing had happened. Though it all seems lighthearted, Baloji’s music isn’t all fun and games, it is also a way to bring people together. Before finishing the show, he said, “just like Iceland, this is not music for the different religions. This is our music.” Then he broke into several more upbeat songs to get everyone dancing together. He wrapped up the high energy show by bringing his own band together to join hands and bow on stage.