Nurturing the roots: Músíktilraunir, Iceland’s foremost “Battle of the bands” competition
Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen [+]
University of Edinburgh
A look at the singular importance of Iceland‘s longest running “Battle of the bands” competition, Músíktilraunir (“Music Experiments”, on-going since 1982). Because of Iceland’s small population almost every Icelandic musician that has made his way in the world has had a part in the competition in his formative years as a musician, e.g. Björk, members of Sigur Rós, múm and Of Monsters and Men. This chapter looks at the sociological, cultural and musicological aspects of this unique cultural entity and its wide ranging effect on Icelandic popular music, i.e. its contribution to Iceland’s youth culture, its part in maintaining and creating music scenes (death metal, grunge, hip-hop, electro etc.), the interplay between the competition and the national radio, its role as an only outlet for young, rural bands and its overall function as an annual social hub/driving factor for the grassroots of Icelandic music. Músíktilraunir’s importance can be viewed from both a macro- and micro-social angle. It’s interesting to see how big an effect such a long running and deeply rooted cultural institution can have on such a small musical society but on a more micro sociological level it has functioned as educational institution of sorts, motivating young and aspiring musicians – most of them still at an amateur level – fortifying and creating connections and introducing them to the world of professional musicianship. Ruth Finnegan’s, Robert A. Stebbins’ and Antoine Hall’s theories about amateur musicians will prove useful in this respect as will the author’s own experience in the field; being a long serving music journalist and a member of Músíktilraunir’s jury since 1998.