Iceland’s music may be the most unique, inventive and ingenuous in the entire world. After centuries of being influenced by Germanic, Scandinavian, British and -lately- American music, the sounds being made in Iceland today have put the country on an international pedestal for its creativity and ability to turn old sounds new again.

Bjork, an annual spectacle at the Grammy Awards, might be getting most of the attention these days, but there are some 50 bands living and working in Reykjavik alone, all competing for the same 150,000 fans.

A handful of bands from Iceland, indeed, have made it big outside of their home country, both commercially and artistically. Two of them, Sigur Ros and Mum, released albums last year that ended up on several year-end top 10 lists.

Both groups presented milestones for not only Icelandic music, but for international music as a whole. By literally inventing new genres, many of the cultural nuances that Iceland has been made famous for were put into words and lyrics for all the world to see - and hear.

Sigur Ros, for instance, invented a fictitious language for their album, and Mum combined Icelandic and folk music with synthesizers and laptop computers, creating an all new “folktronica” sound.

The music in Iceland, more than any segment of Icelandic art, offers a compelling and accurate look at a culture tied together by artistic oddities. Much attention has been given as to how and why a country so small is able to produce such enchanting music. The reason, of course, is because the music is just that: enchanting.

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  Copyright © 2003 Chris Coomey