Ghostigital 9Scientific paper in Cultural Sociology 2015; Vol. 9 (1): 81-98.

By Nick Prior

University of Edinburgh, UK



Over the last three decades, Iceland’s reputation has been increasingly tied to the prominence of its popular music. Associated with an effervescent independent scene and the global successes of the band Sigur Rós and the singer Björk, the country has been positioned as one of the world’s most vibrant cultural hotspots. With particular reference to Reykjavík, the paper aims to show how the city’s spatial configuration favours the development of dense creative networks and attendant forms of knowledge, conflict, diversity and collaboration. It assesses the integrative nature of music education on the island, the formation of a small but influential punk scene and the global marketing of the country’s music through an agile cluster of cultural agencies and intermediaries. Getting a sense of the city’s routine musical practices, it will be argued, opens an aperture on the location of place-based musics within prevailing social and economic conditions.

Full article link here:


“So what is about Iceland that leads to such great music? Every time you ask this, PR agencies piss themselves with glee and half of the music scene vomits a little. And so are born the stories of being under the influence of unique Icelandic nature – the stories that will get written about (because that’s what this game is really about).”

Quote of P. Borgason (2012) in Iceland Airwaves Journal on the Grapevine site


“It’s much more of a social thing than a nature thing.”

Anonymous musician quote


“There is no deep musical tradition in Iceland so the base we have to build on is punk… that is when music started growing here so there has been a do-it-yourself attitude… it’s an inherited attitude.”

Anonymous musician quote


“You probably know someone in the band, so you want to buy the CD”

Quote of Ólafur Arnalds

The Making of Olafur Arnalds Silvia Sebastian


“We would rather play with our friends that play different music than to play with people we don’t really know or like, just because their music is similar to ours.”

Quote of Bóas Hallgrímsson of the band Reykjavik!


“The reason why I think Reykjavík is unique is that you’re practising in a garage and there’s a band practicing in the next garage and you don’t want to sound like the next band… It’s awkward to be exactly like your friends.

Anonymous musician quote


And finally:

A funny reference to the Scottish blogger Bob “you’ll never work in this town again” Cluness after his stirring post about Ásgeir Trausti Einarsson.

Read the full blog post and comments here:

My  personal Conclusions and Comments

An interesting piece of work, but some people were more or less prior to N. Prior on this subject and did more or less the same. For example Ilana van den Berg, her MA thesis at the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands: “The Island Syndrome: A view on the international success of the Icelandic music” (2012) and an online article about her thesis in Dutch And in her thesis the musicians/experts of all kind are not anonymous :-)

Schermafbeelding 2015-06-27 om 20.24.16The Frenchman Thomas Griffin wrote a thesis about the scene as well in the naughties.

The text is as well poor in referring to primary sources like the classical books on Icelandic music (f. ex. “Rokksaga Islands: Fra Sigga Johnnie til Sykurmolanna” by Gestur Guðmundsson (1990)), probably because they are mostly written in Icelandic (?). But he’s forgetting the fantastic book by Dr GunniBlue Eyed Pop” (2013).

He mentions the usual suspects: Iceland Airwaves festival (“the hippest long weekend on the annual music-festival calendar”), the movies “Rokk í Reykjavík” from 1982, “Screaming Masterpiece” from 2005 and “Heima” from 2007), Iceland Music Export (IMX), Paul Sullivan’s book (“Waking up in Iceland”, 2003), Smekkleysa and Einar Örn Benediktsson.

What’s an item about Iceland/Icelandic music without some spelling mistakes: ‘Gokoyoko’ (Gogoyoko),’ Jóhann Jóhansson’ (Jóhann Jóhannsson). Prior is even misspelling the names of his helping hands, like ‘Thorodssen’ (Thoroddsen) and ‘Hermannsson’ (Hermannsson). In the references list as well (‘Bollasson’ (Bollason), ‘Gudmondsson’ (Guðmundsson). And was Bubbi Morthens not ‘the Icelandic Bruce Springsteen’, and Megas ‘the Icelandic Bob Dylan’? Sloppy mistakes for a scientific paper, … but you need a Belgian blogger to find out ;-)

– Wim Van Hooste (Friend of Icelandic music since 1987: (Icelandic music was my first love, and it will be my last)

Puffin+Fingers+UpAll artwork by Wim Van Hooste except Ólafur Arnalds by Silvie Sebastian

Photograph of Ghostigital (Curver Thorodssen and Einar ‘Örn’ Benediktsson)

at Iceland Airwaves 2014 by ROK photographer Sonja Verbeeck