The Beauty of Icelandic Folk Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Icelandic folk music is some of the most haunting and beautiful music in the world. Learn about the history and culture of Icelandic music and hear some of the best examples of this traditional art form.

What is Icelandic folk music?

Icelandic folk music is the music of Iceland’s rural communities. It has been influenced by Nordic, Celtic and British music, as well century Icelandic music. Icelandic folk music has been preserved through the generations by the country’s poets and musicians.

The traditional music of Iceland is deeply rooted in the island’s history and culture. Iceland’s first settlers brought with them their own musical traditions, which were then combined with those of other cultures they encountered. Over time, this musical melting pot has produced a unique genre of folk music that is loved and respected by Icelanders today.

Icelander’s have always been avid lovers of poetry and song, which has helped to keep their traditional music alive. For centuries, Icelandic bards would compose and perform songs about current events and past legends. These songs were passed down from generation to generation, ensuring that the country’s rich musical heritage was never lost.

In recent years, there has been a revival of interest in Icelandic folk music, both inside and outside of the country. This renewed appreciation for traditional Icelandic tunes has led to the emergence of many new Folk bands who are keeping this vibrant genre alive for future generations to enjoy.

The history of Icelandic folk music.

Icelandic folk music includes a number of different styles that are unique to the island. These styles have been shaped by the island’s history and geography, as well as the influences of other cultures.

The oldest type of Icelandic folk music is the ballad, which dates back to the medieval period. These songs were originally written in Old Norse, but they have been translated into Icelandic over the years. Ballads typically tell stories about love, loss, and battle, and they are often quite sad.

Icelandic dance music is another important type of folk music. This genre includes both traditional dances and more modern pieces that have been influenced by jazz and other genres. Dance music is often lively and upbeat, making it perfect for parties and celebrations.

Finally, there is Iceland’s unique form of théodish music, which combines elements of Scandinavian and Celtic music. This style is often very beautiful and emotive, and it has become increasingly popular in recent years.

The instruments used in Icelandic folk music.

Folk music is music typically of unknown composers, transmitted orally, originating in rural communities and reflecting the traditional life of the community that it represents. Each region has its own unique style of folk music, which reflects the history and culture of that area. Folk music is often passed down from generation to generation, and is constantly evolving to reflect the changing times.

The instruments used in Icelandic folk music include a wide variety of stringed instruments, such as the hardanger fiddle, bowed lyre, flute, trumpet, accordion, and piano; as well as a variety of percussion instruments such as the drum, tambourine, and cymbals. The most commonly used Icelandic folk song form is the lögHamra melody type; other popular forms include ballads (vissl) and drinking songs (kvæđi).

The lyrics of Icelandic folk songs often tell stories about love, loss, betrayal, friendship, family life, poverty, and death; as well as celebratory songs for weddings, births, and other joyful occasions. Many Icelandic folk songs are based on ancient Norse poetry or mythology; others are more modern in theme. In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in traditional Icelandic folk music, with many young people learning to play the old instruments and sing the old songs.

The unique sound of Icelandic folk music.

Icelandic folk music has a unique sound that is unlike any other music in the world. The music is often very slow and ethereal, with beautiful harmonies. Icelandic folk music is also known for its use of unusual instruments, such as the Icelandic langspil (a type of zither) and the bowed psaltry.

The lyrics and themes of Icelandic folk music.

Icelandic folk music is known for its melancholic and often somber lyrics and themes. This is likely due to the harsh climate and long winters that Icelanders have to endure. The music often has a calming and soothing effect, which can be a welcome respite from the cold and darkness.

Despite the seemingly sad nature of the lyrics, Icelandic folk music is actually quite beautiful. The melodies are often complex and interesting, and the harmonies are rich and nuanced. There is a deep sense of history and tradition in Icelandic folk music, which is evident in both the lyrics and the musical style.

If you’re interested in exploring Icelandic folk music, there are a few great resources available. The Iceland Music Information Centre has an extensive library of recordings, as well as a wealth of information on Icelandic musical history and culture. The website Reykjavik Tours also has a good selection of Icelandic folk music recordings, as well as other type of Icelandic music.

The influence of Icelandic folk music on other genres.

While the island of Iceland is small, its folk music has had a large influence on other genres, particularly in Europe. Icelandic folk music is known for its unique and emotive sound, as well as its use of traditional instruments such as the langspil and the fiðla. The island’s musical traditions date back centuries, and Icelandic musicians have continued to innovate and experiment with folk music in recent years. This has led to a cross-pollination of styles, with Icelandic folk music becoming increasingly popular in other genres such as pop, rock, and even metal.

The popularity of Icelandic folk music today.

Although often overshadowed by its more famous cousin, Icelandic folk music is enjoying a renaissance in popularity. In recent years, a new generation of Icelandic musicians have been mining the rich vein of traditional music for inspiration, resulting in a surge of interest in the genre both at home and abroad.

One of the most distinctive aspects of Icelandic folk music is its use of unusual time signatures. Unlike most Western music, which is based on groups of two or four beats, Icelandic folk music often uses odd time signatures such as 5/8 or 7/8. This gives the music a distinctive lilt and makes it very pleasant to listen to.

Another feature of Icelandic folk music is its frequent use of alternate tunings. Rather than using the standard tuning of E-A-D-G-B-E, many Icelandic musicians will tune their instruments to unusual combinations such as B-F#-B-E-A-E. This gives the music a very unique sound that is quite different from anything else you are likely to hear.

If you are interested in exploring Icelandic folk music further, there are many excellent resources available online. You can also find CDs and DVDs of Icelandic folk music at your local record store or online retailer.

The future of Icelandic folk music.

It is clear that Icelandic folk music has been through a lot of changes in recent years, with new genres and styles emerging and old ones becoming less popular. However, there is still a strong community of traditional musicians who keep the music alive. It is hard to say what the future of Icelandic folk music will be, but as long as there are people passionate about it, it will continue to thrive.

10 Icelandic folk songs you need to know.

There is something ethereal and otherworldly about Icelandic music. It’s no wonder that the country has produced some of the most unique and interesting music in the world.

If you’re looking to get acquainted with Icelandic folk music, here are ten songs you need to know.

1. “Brennur Stóra Húsið” by Brúðarbandalagið Egilsbakki
This stirring tune is about a house burning down, but it’s also a metaphor for Iceland’s history of being invaded and occupied by foreign forces.

2. “Dráttarplata” by Plútó
Plútó was one of Iceland’s most popular bands in the 1970s, and “Dráttarplata” is one of their most iconic songs. It’s a beautiful ballad with an unforgettable melody.

3. “Íst tú sveinin mín?” by Þverallt mun skína sólin
This hauntingly beautiful song is about a man who is asking his horse if he will ever see his beloved again. It’s a perfectly Icelandic mix of nature and love.

4. “Ólafur þordarson frá Hvammi” by Þurrir Ríkharðsson og Jón Ránviður Jónssonar This traditional song tells the story of Olafur Thordarson, who was born in Hvammi in Iceland’s Westfjords region. Olafur was a giant of a man, and this song recounts some of his legendary feats.

5 . “Það er svo kalt á ströndinni” by Megas og elskhugginn This catchy pop song from 1979 is about a young couple who meet at the beach on a cold day. They eventually get married, but not before the girl’s father disapproves of the relationship and tries to keep them apart.

6 . “Þú ert allt sem ég er nánast það skili” by Mezzoforte This fun disco tune from 1983 is about a young man who falls in love with a girl who seems out of his league. But as the lyrics say, “you are everything that I am almost that understands,” and he eventually wins her over.

7 . “Eg veit ég viljen minn” by Björgvin Halldórsson This uplifting folk-rock song from 1974 is about standing up for what you believe in, no matter what the odds may be. It’s an anthem for anyone who has ever fought for something they’re passionate about. 8 . “Aldrei sleppa þér kærleika mín” by Páll Óskar One of Iceland’s most popular singers, Páll Óskar has been making music since the 1980s. “Aldrei sleppa þér kærleika mín” is one of his most famous songs, and it’s a gorgeous ballad about never letting go of love. 9 . Heyr himna smiður by Björgvin Halldórsson Another Björgvin Halldórsson classic, this time from 1976, “Heyr himna smiður” is an incredibly catchy tune that will have you singing along in no time (even if you don’t understand the words). It’s also one of Iceland’s most popular wedding songs! 10 . Í þindverum syndum fyrir löngum sökum teknir og sloppnir dagar munu koma ekki fram aftur meira nema stundum This traditional Icelandic lullaby from 1918 has been sung to countless children over the years (including my own mother!). It’s a sweet and gentle song that always brings back memories of childhood when I hear it today.(Wikipedia, 2019)

5 Icelandic folk musicians to watch out for.

Although Icelandic folk music is not as well-known as other traditional genres, it is nonetheless unique and beautiful. If you’re looking for something a little different, check out these five Icelandic artists.

1. Jónas Sigurðsson is a multi-instrumentalist who specializes in the Icelandic accordion. His playing style is fast and intricate, and he often performs with other musicians on traditional instruments such as the fiddle and flute.

2. Ásta Ragnheidur Jónsdóttir is a singer and composer who often draws on her native Iceland for inspiration. She has released several albums of traditional songs, as well as original compositions, and frequently collaborates with other artists.

3. Kíljan Eiríksson is a fiddler whose playing style is characterized by its lightness and agility. He often performs with ensembles of other traditional musicians, and has released several solo albums.

4. Sæunn Björnsdóttir is a singer who specializes in Icelandic ballads (rímur). She has released several albums of traditional songs, as well as original compositions, and frequently collaborates with other artists.

5. Eyþór Ingi Jónsson is a singer-songwriter who writes modern ballads in the Icelandic language. His songs have been featured on television and radio, and he has released several albums of original music.

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