The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Music of Iceland

Icelandic music is related to Nordic music forms, and includes vibrant folk and pop traditions, including singer Björk and Sigur Rˇs. The only folk band whose recordings are available abroad is Islandica .

The national anthem of Iceland is "Our Country's God ", written by MatthÝas Jochumsson, with music by Sveinbj÷rn Sveinbj÷rnsson [1]. The song was written in 1874, when Iceland celebrated the one thousandth anniversary of settlement on the island. It was in the form of a hymn, first published under the title A Hymn in Commemoration of Iceland's Thousand Years.

Traditional Icelandic music is strongly religious in character. Hallgrímur Pétursson wrote numerous Protestant hymns in the 17th century. This music was further modernized in the 19th century, when Magnús Stephensen brought pipe organs, which were followed by harmoniums.

Icelandic folk music was collected by the work of Bjarni Ůorsteinsson from 1906 to 1909. Many of these songs were accompanied by traditional instruments like the langspil and fi­la . Epic alliterative and rhyming ballads called rímur are another vital tradition of Icelandic music.

Rímur are epic tales, usually a cappella, which can be traced back to the Viking Age Eddic poetry of the Skalds, using complex metaphors and cryptic rhymes and forms. Some of the most famous rímur were written from the 18th to the early 20th century, by poets like Hannes Bjarnason (1776-1838), Jon Sigurosson (1853-1922) and Sigurour Breidfjord (1798-1846). Rímur were, for a long time, officially banned by the Christian church, though they remained popular throughout the period. A modern revitalization of the tradition began in 1929 with the formation of the organization Idunn.


  • Rimur.ogg a rimur from the Library of Congress' California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties Collection; performed by Sigurd Bardarson on April 29, 1940 in Carmel, California


  • Cronshaw, Andrew. "Waiting for the Thaw". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp 168-169. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0

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Last updated: 05-16-2005 21:12:33