Preview stories for Iceland Airwaves 2012

Here are preview stories from the Covering International Festivals: Iceland course, where students cover Icelandic history, culture and more to get prepared for their trip. Visit WCRX’s Iceland Airwaves 2012 blog for more features and tune into WCRX 88.1 FM, stream live at, or catch us on your TuneInn Radio app, on Saturday, October 13th, from 1-3pm for a live broadcast of our Iceland Airwaves 2012 preview show!


Iceland Airwaves 2012 Student Preview, by Becky Nystedt

In less than a month, Iceland Airwaves 2012, kicks off. Under the guidance of Althea Legaspi, 10 students from Columbia College Chicago will be covering the music festival, and researching Iceland’s rich culture. The highly anticipated music festival is set in Reykjavík, and showcases both Icelandic and international artists. FM BelfastAgent FrescoBiggi HilmarsÓlafur ArnaldsDIIVEndless Dark, and Exitmusic, are just some out of the 224 bands we’re excited to cover.

Tune into WCRX 88.1 FM, stream live at, or catch us on your TuneInn Radio app, on Saturday, October 13th, from 1-3pm for a live broadcast of our Iceland Airwaves 2012 preview show!


Iceland’s recent economic and political past and what the future may hold, by Sean Wilmsen

Silja Ómarsdóttir is a political science professor at the University of Iceland, and was also one of 25 people chosen to rewrite Iceland’s constitution after the country’s financial meltdown in 2008. With the unemployment rate rising more than six percent and the government giving no information on what was happening, the Icelandic population had nowhere to turn at that time. Ómarsdóttir explains what happened and what the country’s economic and political future holds, from a possible new constitution to new government changes.

Interview with Silja Bára Ómarsdóttir


Möller Records preview, by Shannon Dawson

Möller Records is home to some of the most inspiring Electronica artists in Iceland. They’re aim is to release music from some of the most notable and influential artists from the land of fire and ice.

Árni Grétar is the vice president of Möller Records. He’s also a flourishing  Icelandic Electronic musician under the name of  “Futuregrapher.” In 2011, he teamed up with ambient artist Jóhann Ómarsson to form Möller Records. It’s an Icelandic based music label that represents innovative and notable Electronic musicians who are making noise in Iceland’s music scene.  Grétar details Möller’s journey and the colorful and dynamic artists that are represented on the label. Futuregrapher and some of the Möller family are scheduled to play at this year’s Iceland Airwaves Music Festival.


Icelandic Folklore by Jack Collier

One of the hallmarks of Iceland’s rich culture is their lore. Their legends, fables, and sagas have influenced countless works of art and the country’s colorful history for over ten centuries.

Norse mythology predates the influence of Christianity and refers to the stories told by ancient Germanic cultures. In Nordic folklore are nine worlds, all connected by the tree of life and inhabited by fantastic creatures. These stories are abundant with information about ancient Nordic society, belief, and craft.

Astonishingly, the stories thrive even one thousand years after their creation. Terry Gunnell is a professor at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik and an expert in Icelandic mythology.  He explains how the folklore has survived:

Terry Gunnell on preservation of folklore

Oral tradition, however, fails to credit the original tellers at the stories’ inception. An author with a background in the science, history, and folklore of Icelandic culture, Nancy Marie Brown wishes that were different.

Nancy Brown on Icelandic mythology’s authorship

Elves, ghosts, and giants are common characters that exist not only in historical Icelandic lore but still in Icelandic culture. When Professor Gunnell conducted a survey about Icelandic citizens’ attitude toward the supernatural in 2006/7, he found that 32-37% of people believe in hidden people. These beliefs seem strange to other cultures, but Professor Gunnell sees it differently.

Terry Gunnell on believing folklore

Folklore from Iceland has several overarching themes. The sagas are epic tales about adversaries, families, and revenge.  However ancient, there may still be lessons to learn from Icelandic lore. Lena Norrman, a professor of Scandinavian literature and culture at the University of Minnesota, certainly thinks so.

Lena Norrman on learning from Icelandic folklore

With advancements in technology and continued interest in ancient traditions, more is still being learned about the history of Scandinavian culture.  The future may bring new understanding of Icelandic mythology, but it is in a rich oral history that the cherished folklore of Iceland is preserved.

Nancy Marie Brown on the future of Icelandic Mythology

Maybe, then, they will last a thousand more. From gods and giants to elves and men, there are worlds in these stories that have captured human imagination for centuries. However otherworldly it may be, the folklore of Iceland really says something about humanity. Through 1000 years of relaying their mythology, the Nordic people have spun – using eternal themes and steadfast tradition – an everlasting thread connecting 1000 years worth of human beings.


The Ring Road by Andrew Gonzalez

That’s Edythe McNamee, she’s the digital content producer from CNN who recently embarked on a road trip around Iceland’s infamous Ring Road (sometimes referred to as Route 1). Last summer, McNamee and three friends documented Iceland’s eccentric and diverse landscapes. The 830-mile road is the national road of Iceland. It runs around the island connecting populated areas and geographical hotspots.

In less than a day, McNamee proved that visitors could get a decent representation of what the whole island had to offer just within the vicinity of Reykjavik. What was most surprising to find out is that she did minimal planning for the trip, and focused more on taking advantage of the amazing seasonal geography of Iceland.

McNamee says she didn’t rely on much when it came to navigation around Iceland.

Along the way, McNamee’s minimal planning caught up with her when it came time to find a place to stay for the night. Thankfully she was saved by the hospitality of native Icelanders.

With only an atlas and the generous hospitality of native Icelanders, McNamee and her friends managed to trek the Ring Road with ease, emerging unscathed. McNamee ended her adventure by driving back down to Reykjavik to lounge around the Blue Lagoon, one of Iceland’s premiere tourist attractions. Putting aside its popularity, McNamee found that her favorite lagoon was actually located in the Vatnajökull National Park, and she explains that there are plenty of pools to check out if you can’t make it to the Blue Lagoon:

As McNamee detailed, Iceland isn’t restricted to just Reykjavik; there are plenty of small cities and national parks to visit all along the Ring Road that provide visitors with a more complete picture of what the extraordinary country has to offer. Visit CNN’s “Travel Section” for photos, videos and more from McNamee’s Ring Road adventure.


Low Roar by Topher Svymbersky

That’s Ryan Karzija, a.k.a. Low Roar. Hailing from sunny California, Karazija started Low Roar upon moving to Reykjavík after his former band the Audrye Sessions disbanded in 2010. While his 2011 self-titled effort may not sound punk, he noted that after moving, the only recording resource that he had with him was his computer, making it a very “DIY” record for him:

Karazija managed to make a  record that came to be a direct reflection of his experience moving to a new and different place. Outside of the clear differences between Iceland and Karazija’s California home, like the weather and language, he came to adapt very comfortably to the small, but very easy to network, music scene of Reykjavík:  

Karazija expressed that even the motives behind the music can prove to be different in Iceland:

After integrating himself into the local music scene, Karazija started to do as the locals do: camp in the summer, and explore the countryside:

While he says the locals who have lived in Iceland all their lives tie gloomy memories to the winters of constant darkness, Karazija has adapted very well to it from the contrast of sunny California:

Tonequake Records’ Low Roar managed to play an unofficial venue at Airwaves last year, but this year is on the official line-up and he’s currently working on his second album that he said would be much different than the first simply because he’s now at a different point in his life than when he first moved to Iceland. Low Roar’s Airwaves sets will be at Harpa Kaldalón on November 2nd at 8:00pm and at 12 Tónar Record Store on November 3rd at 5:00pm.


A Little Icelandic Music History, by Paul Collins

We’re less than three weeks away from the start of Iceland Airwaves 2012, which brings artists from several musical backgrounds in one place to share and perform their work. Historically, Iceland’s music was known for their poems mixed with melodic tone. Dr. Kristín Jónína Taylor is the Associate Professor of Music in Piano at Waldorf College and a renowned Iceland-American pianist. She says early on there were two styles.

These two early styles were all Iceland had for centuries. Looked down upon as a third world country by the Danish crown, the isolation Iceland received kept the music from developing further.

The fact that Iceland was on a musical lockdown for five centuries makes it hard to believe that over the last 90 years this country has established itself within the world music market, with bands like Sigur Rós and Of Monsters and Men hailing from Iceland. Dr. Taylor says the country’s culture accelerated greatly after the formation of a republic in 1944.

The different directions that these Icelandic artists go help make Icelandic music diverse and Iceland Airwaves Music Festival so unique. They study the world, learning music from all sorts of cultures and then bring it back home for the rest of their country to enjoy.


Tips For Iceland Airwaves Newbies by Madeline Dowling

The first time Bob Cluness went to Iceland Airwaves, it was a fluke. Cluness is a journalist for the Reykjavík Grapevine. Originally from the Shetland Islands in the United Kingdom, Cluness married an Icelandic woman and moved to his current home in Reykjavík. He was working in a small bar in Reykjavík when a popular British band came in and spent the evening chatting and drinking. At the end of the night the band’s tour manager told Cluness that he would be on the guest list for their show the next night. Years later, Cluness hasn’t missed an Airwaves. He covers the festival and has some advice to share with newbies to the festival. But first he wants to clear one thing up.

Not Everybody Likes Sigur Ros

Iceland Airwaves is a five-night festival spread through several venues (including some unofficial venues) in downtown Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland.

Airwaves Overview

Reykjavík is a small city— with slightly more than 119,000 people.  The downtown area where the festival is held isn’t more than a few blocks long in either direction.  This means that it’s inevitable that fans and industry people and musicians alike will cross paths all week long.

Bump Into People

If you’re going to Airwaves, prepare to party. Most Icelanders take it easy during the week and save the hard partying they’re known for for the weekend.  The week of Airwaves is the exception. But alcohol in Iceland is expensive, so come prepared.

Duty Free

Most Icelanders speak English very well and those that don’t certainly speak English better than you speak Icelandic. But in case you want to give Icelandic a shot,  Cluness gives some basic language lessons.

Basic Language Lesson

He also gave a practical language lesson for the festival.

Practical Language Lesson

Reykjavík is chilly during Airwaves, but don’t pack your neon parka. You’ll look like a tourist.

Dress Warm

The week of Airwaves, Reykjavík is filled with music 24/7. During the daytime, they have what’s called the “off venues.” Between around 1pm and 9pm, smaller bars and venues will host free shows. This is a great way to maximize your Airwaves experience.


After all of the excitement and drinking during Iceland Airwaves, Icelanders like to relax.

The Week After

Iceland Airwaves is a unique festival with nonstop fun and good vibes aplenty.

Continuous Fun


Testing Out Icelandic Fare Pre-Fest, by Ross Houslander

Though Iceland isn’t necessarily world-renowned for its exquisite dining and cuisine, I’m nonetheless told you can actually get a great meal on the small island. Of course, positioned so far north and surrounded by water, one must imagine that Icelandic chefs cook a mean fish.

I’m no Icelandic chef, but I love fish, so I decided to gather our class before we head to Iceland Airwaves and test out an Icelandic cod recipe on them.

The recipe I found is for almond-coated beer-battered cod. Beer battering is a more American method of preparing cod; I found a few recipes from professional Icelandic chefs like Agnar Sverrisson, but these recipes were ridiculously complicated. Since none of us are culinary arts students, I decided simple was better.

Nearly everyone had a turn crushing some almonds while I mixed the batter. Luckily, Becky brought some cookies and cake balls to hold us over until the fish was ready.

We also discovered that Madeline has an affinity for puppies, as Sid brought along her adorable Chihuahua, Pheobe.

After battering the cod and coating it with almonds, it was into the oven! Topher, Andrew, and Paul, who were kind enough to host, would have to endure a cod-and-almond smell throughout their apartment for the next couple of days.

The cod baked for about ten minutes; we ended up doing two separate batches, since for some reason I bought three and a half pounds of it. It was a bit messy, but luckily, everyone seemed to enjoy it! Though I’m happy with our work, I’m really looking forward to tasting professionally prepared Icelandic cod. I don’t have long to wait!

I found the recipe from the website of Iceland Brand Seafood. We did our best to follow the recipe to the letter, though we did use crushed almonds instead of sliced. And most of our beer was used for drinking, not cooking.


How to be like a local when visiting Iceland by Sidney Hall

In every culture there are unspoken traditions that build the foundation for social interaction. Hans Otharsson was born and raised in Reykjavik, Iceland. He was deputy managing director of the computer department for the national bank of Iceland until he moved to the states in 2010. He has over 25 years of experience in managing Global Services organizations and currently serves as VP at Ateras. He says with Iceland having more tourist traffic than ever, Icelanders are very open to interacting with outsiders:

He also says there’s no need to be hesitant about socializing in Iceland. The people are very friendly and since the legal drinking age is 20, they have a very colorful nightlife:

Bar hopping in Iceland is called rúntur, which literally means round tour. In order to avoid spending a small fortune on liquor, Otharsson suggests to buy locally made liquors which are cheaper than imported products. Most locals will drink primarily at home and then have one or two drinks out on the town. If someone invites you to their house, Otharsson says it’s customary to bring a small gift that symbolizes where you are from:

When making small talk, Otharsson says to remember that Icelanders love to talk about Iceland. And that’s a fairly easy conversation starter. He also says a heated topic that will engage the locals is the Icelandic economy. The European Union is one of Iceland’s biggest trading partners. Krona is Iceland’s current form of currency, but joining forces with the EU may mean that Iceland will adopt the euro:

A common recreation for locals is to go for a casual swim in natural or manmade hot spring. Otharsson says there are strict hygienic guidelines at swimming holes. Shower rooms will most likely have charts that indicate areas of the body that must be cleaned before entering the hot springs:

The Blue Lagoon is a popular hot spring that has become the leading tourist attraction:

Although the Blue Lagoon is very popular, Otharsson says you won’t meet many locals there. They are more likely to be found at community swimming holes:

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