Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Icelandic Soundscapes: Sigur Rós.

Sigur Rós

It was about five o'clock in the afternoon that December day in 2007, and the Sun had almost completely gone down. A huge and mysterious Moon was swollen in the sky, and all the Christmas lights and candles were lit, turning the main shopping and nightclub streets of Reykjavík – Bankstraeti and Laugavegur – into brightly lit holiday backdrops. Salvation Army volunteers were set up on every block giving out free hot chocolate for the donation of a few Kronar plunked into their little red pots. The broken glass from the previous evening's rúntur had, for the most part, been swept up and away. Little flecks of ice and snow fell from the edges of the rooftops, and the cobble stones of the footpaths tended to be a little loose in spots, resulting in the occasional stubbed toe or trip-up. Children ran about and played and laughed and shouted with little parental supervision. Shops, bars, and cafes all had little candles by their front entrances, the flames flickering in the sub-Arctic breeze. A giant glacier across Reykjavík Bay dominated the landscape as the Moon rose behind it, the clouds that partially obscured it were painted radiant shades of red, yellow and purple by the rapidly sinking Sun. A twin-engine propeller plane roared overhead on its way to the local domestic airport. People glanced furtively upward as it passed, only a few hundred feet above Austervöller Square. An elderly gentleman with crazy hair drives past slowly in the Christmas traffic, his window ajar, Zydeco music blaring from his car stereo. He grinned at me, and pumped his fist in the air. A little kid wearing a bright red jumper with white stripes down the arms and his mum smile as I danced a little jig for the old guy. I could hear his music from a block away as he took a right turn and disappeared from view. I stopped in a charming little cafe called Kaffitár; festooned with strings of hanging purple lights and sporting a dazzling selection of juices and pastries, it seemed like a great place to chill out for a few moments and collect myself. I ordered a single coffee with milk and one of the tastiest orange juices I've ever had, and retreated to the window seat and settled down into Reykjavík's English language music and culture magazine, The Grapevine, and then happened to glance at the thin gentleman sitting one seat away from me. I performed a double-take when I realised that the gentleman in question was the lead singer and guitarist of Sigur Rós, Jónsi Birgisson. I kept stealing sidelong glances, not quite sure if it was just a guy who looked a lot like him (that hairstyle and the build and the facial features – "elvin" comes to mind – seemed to be the norm). But yes, sure enough, he was blind in one eye. I didn't say anything. I was just thinking about how I'd often laugh with my friends and every now and then, with the dream of one day showing the band my Aegytus Byrjin tattoo on my back. Needless to say, I did not show Jónsi my tattoo. I finished my OJ and my second cup of coffee, folded up my newspaper, and stole away into the darkening afternoon. The shorter the days, the longer the shadows. But before I left, I captured his attention, and softly said, "Takk ..." He looked at me and smiled with a mellow shyness and went back to his reading.

sigur rós
Aegytus Byrjin

1 comment:

PierreLeProf said...

Nice story. Reminded me how I've came to know Sigur Rós. And funny as it is, it was in Cancun, where we've meet. It was one of my favorite band that I was listening every time I got the chance to. Thank you for reminding me of that.