ROK had a chat with the German lady Melina Wunderbar.
Hello Melina! Please introduce yourself…
I am 30 years old and from Hamburg. I worked as a librarian for many years before moving to Iceland in 2013, but started to study Cultural and Media Management next to my work in the library. Music has always been an essential part of my life, so through this studies I hoped to sneak myself into the professional music business and find my right spot in there.
Why do you like Icelandic music so much?
It’s open and boundless – everything is allowed, everything is possible. Icelanders try things out without the fear of doing something wrong. I think this is one of the main reasons why Icelandic music has so many different styles flowing together, and sometimes even creating new sounds. Where I am from, the different music genres have each their own social circles and you stick much more around the world of the genres you “picked”, while I experienced Iceland as a big cloud of music, in which people work together, experience each other’s music and think outside the box. I got to listen to music I would probably never have listened to back in Germany.
When did you visit Iceland for the first time?
The first time I came to Iceland in November 2011. I never particularly had Iceland in my mind for travelling, but then I randomly got to see the Icelandic documentary “Backyard” at the Filmfest Hamburg in September 2011. It’s about a few friends organizing concerts in their backyard in Reykjavík and inviting friends and neighbours to come over for that. Well, actually this people are well-known in the Icelandic music scene – the main characters behind the documentary are Árni Rúnar and Lóa from FM Belfast, but to be honest I didn’t even knew them before.
However, I watched this movie and thought that the people seem to be really adorable, as well as the town and then there was this amazing music – featured in the movie are Retro Stefson, Sin Fang, Borko, múm, Hjaltalín, Reykjavík! and FM Belfast. For me that was the entrance to a new music world. Within a few weeks I got from one artist to another and discovered a huge amount of (for me) new, amazing music. I decided to use my vacation time a few weeks later to go to Iceland and have a look at this sweet place myself.
Why are you so attracted to Iceland and its music?
I am very fascinated by the fact that there are no borders. This, combined with the fact that there are constantly new projects, gets me not only very attracted to Icelandic music, but also keeps this excitement over a long time. There is always something new to discover, and there are always new sounds and styles to listen to. You never know what will come up next, and that’s what I love. And then it was of course also easy to fall in love with this country in general. It’s unique with its nature and society, it’s possible to have a very exciting and crazy time but still being relaxed, it’s both loud and quiet, it’s small but cosmopolitan. You meet so many interesting and open people, it’s easy to find soul mates. And maybe it sounds very basic, but I am really into good water and fresh air!
What was your first contact with Icelandic music?
To be honest I never really thought about Icelandic music in particular before I watched “Backyard” in 2011. I once saw Sigur Rós playing at Hurricane Festival 2006 in my home town, and I remember that I was pretty impressed by the performance, but I still never really got into it properly. Which seem to be crazy for me now, because I became a big fan later and now their music means a lot to me. But I guess I was focused on something else back then.
What were/are your projects concerning Icelandic music?
After coming to Iceland twice as a tourist, I was very lucky to get an internship at Iceland Music Export in 2013. I spent a few months in Iceland, and it were some of the best of my life. During that I was already involved with different projects, like Iceland Airwaves and the conference You Are In Control. After half of my internship, I made the decision to follow my heart and move to Iceland, no matter what would come up job-wise. But then I was lucky again and got offered to work with Iceland Airwaves, taking over the logistics for the international artists, media and industry. And through this, I also got to do the same job at Sónar Reykjavík and Copenhagen, as well as Secret Solstice. In between I always did several other things, like working with friends on the wonderful Melodica Festival, the Saga Fest and starting to volunteer for Sofar Sounds. After Sónar Reykjavík 2016 I stopped working in this field and for the big festivals. Doing this was an amazing and unforgettable experience, but it also took more energy than I had at some point, so I decided to end this before getting more exhausted and loosing my passion for what I do professionally. So I took a step down and concentrated more on Sofar Sounds and Melodica Festival, helping friends out with organizing gigs and I recently started to take over the management for two young and new artists from the Westfjords called MONT and FREYJA.
Oh, there are so many. It’s really hard to say, because there are endless gigs which will always stay in my memory as very special moments, for different reasons. And it’s impossible to compare – there are big shows like Sigur Rós during Airwaves 2012 or Ólafur Arnalds and the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra one year later, which blew me away, but also basically all of the Sofar Sounds shows were so magical, since they happen in very intimate and cozy surroundings. We organize this tiny concerts in private spaces every 1-2 months. What makes it very special is that the audience won’t know who will play until they arrive, so people have to be very open for all kind of music – and they are. Also, this gigs put the focus on listening and appreciating the music without chatting or being on your phone, so we always have very intense and pure music moments, it’s truly beautiful.
What are your favourite Icelandic bands, albums, songs?
Also very hard to say, it depends so much on the mood. Here are a few, even though I could name many more:
Albums: Samaris – Silkidrangar
Valdimar – Um Stund
Kiasmos – Kiasmos
Pétur Ben – God’s Lonely Man
Ólafur Arnalds – Living Room Songs
And some songs to mention:
Valgeir Sigurðsson – Erased Duett
Björk – Hidden Place
MONT – Video Game Love Simulator
múm – The Colourful Stabwound
Svavar Knútur – While The World Burns
Do you have a favourite hang-out/spot(s) in Reykjavik?
Let’s start with Kaffibarinn, for me the best place to catch up with friends and listen to (mostly) good music in a cozy atmosphere. Then, after waking up with a hangover the next day, I like to go on walks. If I had one drink too much, I will most likely walk around Tjörnin and then find my way back home. If I managed to be a smart drinker, then I love to walk to the lighthouse Grótta or take the bus to the peninsula Geldinganes and walk around there. And if it’s rainy, I prefer spending time at the photo museum and library.
Having favourite spot(s) outside Reykjavik perhaps?
Basically all spots out of Reykjavík are amazing. Where should I start, and where should I end? Let’s skip this
Any favourite food or drinks?
I love the Icelandic lamb soup, especially the one at Gullfoss waterfall is really good.
I would also never say no to the fish of the day at Óstabúðin. And all my friends know how excited I can get about the Spicy Freedom Burger at Kex.
I am one of the many Einstök White Ale lovers. After getting used to that, it’s hard for me to get pleased with a beer in Germany.
Skál Melina! Danke Schön!
Good luck with all your fantastic projects.
– Wim Van Hooste