The Inspiration of Modern Icelandic Folk Music

The Icelandic folk music scene is one of the most vibrant and innovative in the world. In this blog, we explore the inspiration behind this music and the artists who are keeping it alive.


The music of Iceland includes a wide variety of styles and genres, which are due to the country’s small population and cultural diversity. Iceland’s musical history is diverse, with influences from Nordic, Celtic, and classical music. Icelandic folk music has been particularly influential in the development of modern Icelandic music, with many Icelandic folk songs being adapted for use in pop and rock songs.

Traditional Icelandic music

Traditional Icelandic music is surprisingly diverse. For such a small country, Iceland has a wide variety of musical styles and traditions.

Icelandic folk music is divided into two main types: ballads (Icelandic: rímur) and Icelanders’ songs (Icelandic: þjóðlög). Ballads are traditionally sung by pairs of singers (usually male and female) who take turns singing the verses, while the chorus is sung by all. Icelanders’ songs are usually sung by soloists.

The oldest known ballads in Iceland date back to the 14th century, though most of the best-known ones were written in the 18th and 19th centuries. The best-known Icelandic folk song is “VÍÍÍslenska barnaþula”, which was written in 1864 by Jónas Hallgrímsson.

The influence of other cultures

Icelandic folk music has been deeply influenced by the music of other cultures. This is especially evident in the use of instruments and in the styles of singing and dancing. Instruments such as the violin and accordion were introduced to Iceland by foreign musicians, and they quickly became integral parts of Icelandic folk music. Other influences can be seen in the use of jazz and rock rhythms in some folk songs, and in the popularity of dances such as the waltz and foxtrot.

Despite these outside influences, Icelandic folk music has maintained its own unique character. The country’s isolation has helped to preserve many traditional musical styles, and Iceland’s small population means that there is a close-knit community of folk musicians who are dedicated to keeping the music alive. As a result, Icelandic folk music is still an important part of the country’s cultural identity.

The Modern Sound

While some old Icelandic folk music may sound quite similar to modern Icelandic folk music, the two are actually quite different. The old Icelandic folk music was based on storytelling and was meant to be passed down from generation to generation. On the other hand, modern Icelandic folk music is based on the country’s natural landscapes and its history.

The new generation of Icelandic musicians

The new generation of Icelandic musicians is taking the country’s folk music in a new, more modern direction. These artists are incorporating electronic and experimental elements into their music, while still staying true to the roots of Icelandic folk.

This new sound has been inspired by a variety of sources, including other genres of electronic music, as well as traditional Icelandic folk songs. The resulting music is fresh and innovative, and it is captivating audiences both in Iceland and abroad.

Some of the most popular Icelandic folk musicians today are Ólafur Arnalds, Jóhann Jóhannsson, and Mugison. These artists are leading the charge in creating a new sound for Icelandic folk music, and they are sure to continue to innovate and surprise in the years to come.

The use of technology

Icelandic folk music has been transformed in the modern era by the use of technology, which has allowed for new sounds and arrangements that would not have been possible in the past. By recording folk songs and then manipulating them with computers, Icelandic musicians have created a unique style of music that is still rooted in the traditional sounds of the country. This has led to a new generation of Icelandic folk musicians who are able to create music that is both traditional and modern at the same time.

The Global Impact

Although originating from a small country, the influence of Icelandic folk music can be felt all around the world. From its unique sound to the stories it tells, Icelandic folk music has inspired other genres and artists for centuries. Let’s take a closer look at the history and inspiration of modern Icelandic folk music.

The popularity of Icelandic music

No other nation has had such a profound and lasting impact on music as Iceland. For centuries, Icelandic music has been an important part of the country’s culture, and its influence can be heard in many modern genres.

Folk music has always been a central part of Icelandic music, and it remains popular to this day. Many modern Icelandic musicians have drawn inspiration from the country’s rich musical heritage, creating new interpretations of traditional songs and melodies.

Icelandic music has also been influenced by other genres, including rock, pop, and classical. In recent years, Icelandic musicians have begun to experiment with electronic music, incorporating elements of dubstep and techno into their sound.

The popularity of Icelandic music has grown steadily in recent years, thanks in part to the success of bands like Sigur Rós and Of Monsters and Men. More and more people are discovering the unique beauty of Icelandic music, and it is sure to continue to inspire musicians around the world for many years to come.

The influence of Icelandic music on other genres

Though Icelandic music may not be as widely known as other genres, it has had a significant impact on other musical styles around the world. One of the most notable ways in which Icelandic music has inspired other musicians is through its use of unusual time signatures and chord progressions. These elements are often heard in jazz and rock music, and have helped to create a unique sound that is distinctly Icelandic.

In addition to its influence on popular music, Icelandic folk music has also been an important source of inspiration for classical composers. Many of Iceland’s most famous composers, such as Johan Halvorsen and Jean Sibelius, were influenced by the country’s folk music tradition. Halvorsen even went so far as to include folk melodies in his compositions, something that was relatively unheard of at the time.

While Icelandic music may not be as well-known as other genres, it has had a significant impact on the development of modern music. With its unique sound and fascinating history, Icelandic music is sure to continue to inspire musicians for years to come.

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