Most presidents aren’t too knowledgeable on their countries’ music scenes, but most countries aren’t Iceland. To celebrate 20 years (!!!) of Iceland Airwaves, the nation’s foremost new music festival for both domestic and international acts, Iceland’s Prime Minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, has personally curated a Spotify playlist chock full of Icelandic artists (and some others). Today’s most exciting Icelandic artists, including GusGus and Milkywhale, are stacked against gigantic names including Kate Bush and Rihanna.
It’s fair to assume that Kate Bush and Rihanna have never played Iceland Airwaves, as prominent as the festival is both in Iceland and around the world. Their inclusion makes sense, though: The Kate Bush song chosen is “This Woman’s Work,” and Rihanna’s is “Diamonds.” The former song likely serves to note the tradition of Iceland Airwaves lineups including more non-male artists than pretty much any other festival does; it might also honor the country’s 1975 Icelandic women’s strike. The latter song fixates on the phrase “Shine bright like a diamond,” which Iceland’s northern lights are known to do.
Somewhere between the newer Icelandic artists and the legendary non-Icelandic artists lie Icelandic legends such as Björk and múm (both have played Iceland Airwaves). British icon PJ Harvey, who headlined Iceland Airwaves 2016 with a massive, doom-filled show at a prominent sports venue a bit further from downtown Reykjavik than most of the festival’s events, makes an appearance, as do Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who have probably played the festival at some point, seeing as they’ve been around for roughly as long as the festival has. The point is: Prime Minister Jakobsdóttir’s playlist is both a great look at Iceland Airwaves’ history and an awesome indication that the literal leader of Iceland actually appreciates music and culture.
Of course, you can join in on Iceland Airwaves too. It takes place next week, Nov 7-10, across downtown Reykjavik venues, bars, and clubs. Buy tickets here for an experience that will introduce you to the best of Icelandic music, with some familiar US- and UK-based names to provide a few anchors. If you can’t quite make it to Iceland on such short notice, Iceland Airwaves’ Facebook and Instagram are pretty active in real time during the fest.