Frank Neels works at ‘t Zuiderhuis, a Belgian travel agency specialized in trips to the North. Frank’s main domain is Lapland: LAPLANDreizen. He has a great passion for the High North. After work, Frank is a music freak after all. He brings us his personal story.

As a child of the 70s, it all started with a quartet from Sweden. The simple but ingenious discotunes of ABBA conquered the world and I had my first encounter with music from the North. For hours and hours I listened to the beautiful melodies of Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, names that just sounded exotic and mysterious. The first album that I bought with my carefully saved pocket money was an ABBA compilation album.

The next decade the audio cassette was central. The taping of your favorite radio songs was always a chore, you always hoped that the presenter played the songs as fully as possible without too much bla bla bla. The intro and outro on one of my hundreds of cassette was radio hit “Garden Party” by Mezzoforte. A song of which I only learned that it was of Icelandic origin years later. So “Garden Party” was my first (albeit unconscious) Icelandic music experience.

The second half of the 80s MTV prevailed over the TV cable . My personal favourite show  was ‘120 minutes’. Presenter Paul King took you on a trip to discover the wonderful world of alternative music: R.E.M. , Hüsker Dü , The Pixies , … I got to know them all. Similarly, The Sugarcubes , a slightly eccentric group with a particularly intriguing lead singer. Early 90s same lead singer Björk went solo and broke worldwide.  Slowly grew my awareness that there are special things happening on an island in the North Atlantic.

Fast forward to the turn of the century . One evening my girlfriend Inge came back from a visit to friends . There were pictures and imposed one of them had made a deep impression. Magnificent spherical music accompanied by a vocalist with an angelic voice that sounded almost like an additional instrument. It was Icelandic music and the name of the band was Sigur Rós. Some research has revealed the song “Svefn-g-englar” and the catchy accompanying video was much appreciated. It was clear this was no ordinary band . Unfortunately, Sigur Rós received little airplay and thus disappeared the band some of our music radar.

One afternoon in Antwerp changed everything. During one of our CD bargains yachts Inge’s gaze fell on a magnificent cover. Plain white, with a transparent overlay containing very simple two brackets. Only the back included the name of the performers …. Sigur Rós I still remember our first listening session of ( ). For an hour we felt from the world , on a beautiful, but at the same time sad place. Jón Þór Birgisson and his companions enthroned us into their world , their place , their Iceland and touched us deeply. At that time, Inge and I knew for sure, we absolutely had to go to Iceland.

After a few years, save the dream became a reality in 2008 . With a 4×4 we crossed Iceland to the tones of Björk and Sigur Rós. The combination of the music and the scenery both gave an extra dimension and impression after impression was on our network and burned eardrums. In Reykjavik we found a vibrant music scene and we went into the legendary Smekkleysa record shop looking for more Icelandic goodies. The sympathetic manager was consulted, so I came outside with slices of Hjaltalín and Andrum under the arm.
Specialized websites and playlists were digged into and we set a new goal, attending the renowned Iceland Airwaves festival. Then in 2011 her Björk ‘Biophilia’ tour announced with a passage in the brand new Harpa concert hall during Airwaves , the choice was easy. In October of the same year were two Belgian music freaks with big eyes and ears open the hip Icelandic capital and discovered numerous fantastic Icelandic bands and artists: Ólafur Arnalds , Kira Kira , Mammút, … The highlight was probably to see Perform Of Monsters And Men in a tiny, crowded bar, more than half a year before they would break with ‘Little talks ‘ worldwide. Björk’s Biophilia ‘du jamais vu’ show was and was the culmination of a wonderful four days.

Meanwhile, our counter 3x Iceland next summer following our fourth visit. It has been eagerly looking forward to the reunion with unsurpassed scenery and enjoy the delicious skyr.

Whenever we are in Reykjavik, our CD collection grows. Alongside Björk and Sigur Rós we cherish above all GusGus, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Rökkurró, múm, …
If we can free us, we are also trying to get in the passage. Icelandic artists in Belgium Two concerts jumped in recent years , both with the same key figure. Jón “Jónsi” Þór Birgisson solo in the AB and his band Sigur Rós in the Antwerp Open Air Rivierenhof were sizzling and unforgettable experiences.

Many blogs, music forums and websites help the void between Iceland trips and concerts of Icelandic bands to capture : Gogoyoko  Iceland Music Export and to name but a few. The arrival of ROK is a blessing, because finally there is a gathering place for contemporary Icelandic music.
Good luck, ROK ! !