Photo by Ólavur Frederikseen
Set along the rugged coastline of the Faroe Islands, G! Festival is widely recognised as one of the most scenic music events around…
The Faroe Islands are dramatically and strikingly beautiful, as ferocious waves lap the island’s shores, vivid shadows of clouds move across the sweeping hills and unpredictable fog travels in and out between the mountains. The powerful nature found on the 18 north Atlantic islands that make up the country provide just one branch of the huge amount of inspiration enjoyed by the many artists that create music there, and each year, this music is celebrated at one of the country’s biggest events, G! Festival.
Taking place between the 14 – 16th July 2016, G! Festival will present some of the finest Faroese talent to an avid crowd of festival goers over the course of an action packed weekend, so ahead of the 2016 edition, we caught up with the festival’s Managing Director Sigvör Laksá to find out more about the special elements that combine to make this event one of the most unique musical events in the world.
Find out more about G! Festival as Sigvör shares some hints of what’s in store for this year’s edition. And if you fancy digging even deeper into the fantastic Faroese music scene, check out our dedicated Faroese playlist, where we’ll be adding all of the latest tracks from the islands as they’re released!
Hello Sigvör – G! Festival is almost here! Could you give us a bit of an overview of the festival, its setting and history for people that haven’t had the chance to visit yet?
G! Festival celebrates its 15th edition in 2016. Taking place in the village of Syðrugöta – population 400 – on the island of Eysturoy, the festival’s stages are built on the beach and the football pitch, right under the windows of houses. The locals welcome the visitors, which is a refreshing contrast to the grudging reception which can greet festival goers elsewhere.
A part of the magic of G! is the setting in which the Festival takes place. American Express just named G! in it’s Worlds most scenic Music Festivals. The village atmosphere creates a unique experience, and the main stage down on the Beach, whilst never an easy task to pull off, leaves both artists and audience in awe of the occasion.
G! is held against the backdrop of the Faroes’ breath-taking landscape, a terrain dominated by grass-carpeted mountains. Caught between the peaks and the ocean, in a break between the cliffs skirting the coastline, Syðrugøta is set in an unrivalled natural amphitheatre. This makes the festival home to an experience you cannot recreate at any other music event.
Photo by Kristfríð Tyril
And what’s in store for the visitors of this year’s G! Festival?
We are lucky, as ever, to host a really diverse selection of international and Faroese artists. We are very excited for the prospect of Songhoy Blues from Mali – Africa, with such an important message in their music, experiencing the Faroe Islands, and performing alongside our native Faroese acts.
And from yet another continent, The Hot 8 Brass Band from New Orleans come from such a dramatically different culture and place, we know they will have more than a raised eyebrow experiencing the Faroe Islands. And when they perform on Saturday night, on the Beach in Syðrugøta, they will create a party, and experience, that you simply couldn’t create anywhere else. It’s a once in a lifetime experience for them, as well as us.
Amongst the Nordic bands, we feel privileged to present Phlake, who just received 5 stars for their concert at the Roskilde Festival, Jacob Bellens, Agent Fresco, and Steve’n’Seagulls.
Each year, the festival presents a number of fantastic Faroese artists from across the country – who will be performing this year?
For G! 2016 we are presenting Faroese artists, who have undertaken a creative journey, with a vision and purpose to create their own unique voices.
As ever, diversity is all important. We have the ‘Queen of Faroese Music’ Annika Hoydal, who in her 70th year has produced an album that is steeped in Faroese tradition. Annika is an artist that has shaped generations of music in the Faroes, from the 1970’s onwards.
In complete contrast to Annika, we are presenting Lea Kampmann, who is making her debut Festival performance after blowing the nation away with a live radio performance earlier in the year. Lea is still in the process of recording her first material! But she’s a hugely gifted artist, who has the ability to carry Annika’s torch for generations to come.
G! celebrates the unique voices, who we feel reflect both the tradition, and what is to come. Being a native of the village of Gøta, Eivør has carved a place for herself within the fibres of G! Festival. People travel from all over the world to hear Eivør perform at G! She is perhaps the most prolific artist the Faroe Islands has ever produced, who tours extensively throughout the year, all over the world. The Faroese are incredibly happy and proud to call her their own, and welcome her each summer, for her home-coming at G!
How do you pick the artists that will performing at the festival?
When selecting the artists to perform at G! we envision a shape to each day, and further, the entire 3 days of the Festival. A music festival should be a rich banquet, with many different flavours, sights and sounds. It is as much about the international acts, as it is the Faroese, and even more so, the juxtaposition of them. G! is an international celebration of music and culture. With this mix of Faroese and International – in the village, we have this wonderful culture clash.
Photo by Kristfríð Tyril
One thing that we love about not just G! Festival, but the the whole Faroese music scene is the strong sense of community and how collaborative it is – can you tell us about your thoughts on why this is, and more about the community feel within the music scene?
I think the main reason behind this that Faroe Islands are such a small country. As an island community, we have traditionally been isolated from the rest of world. The music scene is very rich and integrated, and many musicians are playing in different bands. One of the reasons for this, is that it is difficult for many musicians to make a living of only playing their own music, so they tend to play with different bands. For these reasons, collaboration comes naturally.
And as a native of the Faroe Islands yourself, could you tell us about some of your all time favourite Faroese artists?
The Faroese music scene is very vibrant and new artists are constantly emerging. I find it very difficult to list only a few. I really like the way that artists such as Hanus and Stanley have in their very different ways given new life to the poems of some of our greatest poets. Eivør’s music has really put the Faroe Islands on the world map. Her music has its roots in our traditions, but she manages to give it a modern twist.
The setting of the festival is very special – do you have any favourite memories of the town community embracing the festival?
My strongest memories come from when nature has challenged us, for instance, when the stage on the beach has been flooded, and everybody in the community has worked hard to save the stage. One of my favourite memories was when Blind Boys of Alabama played a couple of years ago. It was an excellent concert. The tide was coming in, and one of them, a blind man, went down from the stage to the beach and ‘walked on the water’.
As well as music, there’s plenty more going on – so what are some of the other features of the festival that visitors should check out?
As always, there are hot tubs and Finnish saunas on the beach, so you can always go for a dip in the cold sea, followed by soak in the tub or a visit to the sauna. A few well-known designers also have stalls at the festival. On Saturday, there is also a food event, where you can try Faroese fish for free. There is also plenty of entertainment for the children on Saturday.
What would be your top tips for making the most of this year’s event?!
Find a place nearby to stay, get some Faroese friends and just enjoy the excellent music at a beautiful setting.
Which performances are you most excited about seeing this year?
I always tend to be most excited about the things that are from the most distant places, so Songhoy Blues and Hot 8 Brass Band are the ones that I look most forward to. The midnight singing is a totally different thing, where Faroese musicians play some of the best known songs and everyone sings along. This gives me a strong sense of community and togetherness.
And finally, what do you think is the most special thing about G! Festival?
The beautiful environment, the setting with four stages built up in the middle of the village. and the fight against nature.