Iceland dances to a different tune

Iceland dances to a different tune

My wife and I shut our eyes to the ZAR:EURO exchange rate and travelled to Iceland in July 2015 for a first and possibly even last visit to this strange and magical island. For us, as for many others, the allure was a combination of Iceland’s stark volcanic landscape, its remoteness, stories about the pragmatism of its people and of course, the music of such artists as Sigur Rós, Amiina, Björk and more.

Music was part of the reason we timed the trip to coincide with 1-3 July, as it was the third annual edition of ATP Iceland. With a line-up that included Iggy Pop, Public Enemy, Swans and Godspeed! You Black Emperor, it was not to be missed. Included in the line-up was also a great selection of Icelandic bands, with artists like Börn, Grísalappalísa, Valgeir Sigurðsson and Mr Silla showing the musical diversity to be found in a country with just over 300,000 citizens.

Swans at ATP Iceland 2015

Swans at ATP Iceland 2015

Having spoken to many people in the South African music industry about the challenges facing musicians, promoters and live music venues, I admit I don’t yet understand the business model for such a festival. ATP as an organisation is known for its exceptional taste in curating festivals, and this one is held in an old NATO hangar with a capacity for a mere 5,000 people. That is not a lot considering the headliners they put on (like the 69-year old Iggy Pop, who showed his lust for life in a staggering 90 minute set). To fly such quality artists to Iceland, to a festival with limited sideshows which can also generate revenue (e.g. camping, food stalls and fringe entertainment) and only a few headline sponsors, must be an accountant’s nightmare. Yet the sound quality is top notch, the organisation is good, the entertainment worth every cent, but I kept wondering are there enough cents in this? ATP had a bad experience previously with the cancelled Jabberwocky Festival in the UK, yet over on Iceland it seems to work, because ATP Iceland 2016 has already been announced.

Reykjavik

Reykjavik

After this and some wonderful days in Reykjavik we rented a Suzuki Jimny and toured Route 1 (1,800km around the island) in 10 slow driving and joyous days. The sights are spectacular, even though our South African idea of summer weather was somewhat different from what we experienced at near zero temperatures in our tent.

Þakgil Camping Ground

Þakgil Camping Ground

Iceland is becoming almost too popular, so it might be worthwhile to go slightly outside the main June to August holiday season. Since camping sites open in May and close in September, based on feedback from other campers, even though those two fringe months are cold, they are just as worth it, with slightly less congestion on the roads. Or, the one Ring Road.

Black beach at Vik

Black beach at Vik

Beached glacier ice

Beached glacier ice

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Impressions of Kinshasa

Impressions of Kinshasa

On 1-3 April 2014 two related but separate conferences were held at the Grand Hôtel in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC):

  • “Convening the Africa LEDS Partnership” was held on April 1st as a natural progression of the LEDS Global Partnership and LEDS regional partnerships in Asia and Latin America.
  • “Pathways to Green Growth in Africa” hosted by the Green Growth Knowledge Platform took place on April 2nd and 3rd and aimed to facilitate knowledge exchange and foster synergies across the region on green growth approaches and practices.

I represented the Southern African Regional Universities Association (SARUA) at these events to explore further networking opportunities for SARUA’s planned research clusters and capacity development networks with other regional and global organisations and partners – you can read my previous blog post on the Capacity Development Programme for Climate Change here.

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Listen to the Wrong Rock Show featuring Nakhane Touré

In August 2013 my wife and I went to Oppikoppi Festival 2013 – South Africa’s biggest, dustiest and most iconic music festival, now in its 19th year. Because I co-host the Wrong Rock Show on Bush Radio 89.5FM, I usually make contact with a few artists to buy their new releases and have a quick chat. One artist who amazed me three weeks prior to Oppikoppi with his debut album was Nakhane Touré and I managed to meet up with Nakhane after his performance to record an episode showcasing his album and his myriad musical influences.

You can listen to the episode below (press the green play button), or find it here. Since then Nakhane has been on the cover of Rolling Stone South Africa and will support Suzanne Vega on her South African tour in November. If you have not yet purchased a copy of the album Brave Confusion, you sure will after listening to his amazing music.

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