2016 marks the 30th anniversary of “Söngvakeppni sjónvarpsins”, Iceland’s pre-selection competition for Eurovision. Among this year’s exciting contestants are first timers Vala Höskuldsdóttir and Sigríður Eir Zophoníasardótir – known together as the band Eva – who say that they’re bringing a political message to the contest. I caught up with Vala and started by asking, how it came about that the two of them decided to compete in it.

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Vala Höskuldsdóttir (pictured) and her band mate Sigríður Eir Zophoníasardóttir, a.k.a. Sigga, have written a song about “the refugee problem that ” Europe is currently facing. They will be performing it in Söngvakeppni sjónvarpsins.

“It was a kind of an epiphany. We just got an office space and we were a bit lost in regards to what to do with it. And then we got a chance to think outside the box. We have this whiteboard at our office where we list the band’s upcoming projects and ideas and one day Sigga [a.k.a. Sigríður] simply wrote: “Write a Eurovision song”. Then she admitted to having had this dream for years, to perform at the Eurovision Song Contest.”

Was this also a dream of yours?
“No, not really. I have already experienced reality TV when I was 18 years old and took part in The Icelandic Idol. I felt it was total craziness, so for my being it was hard to dream about doing something like that again. But Sigga has promised to take good care of me and we’re all grown up now so I believe things will be different this time.”

Wait, so you’re saying that the pre-contest is basically reality TV?
“Well, theoretically speaking it is. I mean for someone like me, who comes from the world of theater, Eurovision is television entertainment and just as much reality TV as The Bachelor or Survivor. Which can be fun, and if it’s on good terms then we’re happy to be a part of it.”

“Eurovision has often been a platform for politics, although Iceland hasn’t taken great part in that panel so far. We’ve been focusing more on the love ballads…”

Vala tells me that after she and Sigga started talking about this – seriously talking – they decided that if they were going to compete, then it had to be on their terms and it had to have a point. So they asked themselves: What does Europe need to hear?

“And for us that question had an easy answer. The first thing that came to mind was the problem we’re facing in regards to refugees. And that problem is ours, not the refugees’. We have problems accepting people who are looking for safety. We need to stick together now and try to look at things from a different perspective. If we weren’t so scared, we might see that this doesn’t have to be such a problem. The song is basically about that.”

The matter of refugees has been much disputed all over Europe – how do you imagine the song will be received?
“I don’t know. It will be interesting to see, if a big percentage of Eurovision fans are afraid of the migrants and refugees of Europe.

I find it rather likely that more songs in the final contest will be addressing this problem. Eurovision has often been a platform for politics, although Iceland hasn’t taken great part in that panel so far. We’ve been focusing more on the love ballads, with the memorable exception of Pöllapönk who sang away prejudice.”

Sigga and Vala.

Sigga and Vala are bringing a political message to Eurovision.

Well, it will be exciting to see if you’re right, if performers from other countries feel the urge to confront the situation. But why did you see Eurovision as platform for that? 

“Well we recently published a song called “Makríllinn” [e. The Mackerel], which was inspired by a speech that Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir [an Icelandic actress] gave at the Gríma ceremony [Icelandic theater awards], where she talked about how important it was to use every window you get – every opportunity – to say what has to be said. And Eurovision is such an obvious window of opportunity.”

Talking about your work and your band I noticed that in the beginning you mentioned the band’s “office”, where you have this whiteboard for the band’s – not only gigs – but “projects”. So do you perhaps see yourselves as something more than a band?

“We have difficulties putting ourselves in a box – at least we haven’t found the right one yet. We both come from the theatre and are interested in politics. But we’re also just a band of two women. It’s complicated. And the same goes with the music itself. We’ve tried to pinpoint it, and so far the best description is ‘a country based,melodic feminst pop-punk with a witty, folkie undertone’. But you’re right, we definitely see ourselves as something more than a band.”

“At one point we wanted to have the lyrics translated into Arabic – that would have been fun!”

Your popularity has increased a lot over the last year. I have a feeling that the lyrics have much to do with this, do you agree?
“Yes. I think we’re a bit different when it comes to our lyrics. Our melodies are nice but the lyrics speak to people. And maybe that’s what’s missing in music today; lyrics that speak directly to the people. Our concerts are more like a conversation with the audience. We want to write songs that unite people.”

This seems to be a bit up and coming in art today, at least here in Iceland, sincerity infused with a bit of comic criticism.
“Definitely. I feel like that’s the best way to people’s hearts, to play both ways – to both admit you’re a part of society and also point out the comic and tragic sides of it.”

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“Multiculturalism is profitable in so many ways – it adds spice to life,” says Vala.

Can you tell us a bit about your song, “Ég sé þig” (i. I see you), for the song competition?
“I’m really happy about it. It paints a beautiful picture of what Europe could be looking at if we step up our game and start welcoming everybody. Multiculturalism is profitable in so many ways – it adds spice to life. And the song talks about how we’re all so different but at the same time we’re all in the same boat, which we don’t want to sink.”

In the pre-selection competition all songs must be performed in Icelandic. But have you already translated your songs into English, or do you have different plans?
“We’ve discussed this back and forth. At one point we wanted to have the lyrics translated into Arabic – that would have been fun! But at the end of the day we came to the conclusion that since the lyrics are a very important part of the song, it would be best for it to be performed in English since it would reach most people that way.”

Speaking about the song’s message, what are your thoughts on the statement that people who want to have boarders opened, ‘are not thinking things through’, that they ‘are simple minded’?
“Living together, and being a part of society, will always be complicated. Each society is filled with minefields. We need to dare to deal with things, tackle each other and find ways to disarm those mines. That’s life. It’s also very complicated to only live with Icelanders. I think it’s really complicated to live with a lot of groups of our society. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.”

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Last year 260 songs were submitted to Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins, the Icelandic pre-selection competition for Eurovision, but only 12 were chosen to take part. Those songs, including the song by Vala and Sigga, will be broad-casted live on RÚV on February the 6th, 13th and the 20th.

All photos/courtesy of the band Eva.

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

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        Ísey skyr
        - once tasted never forgotten

        Our Story
        Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

        For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

        Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
        This is our secret and you are in on it

        You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

        Núðluskálin
        - noodle bar

        Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

        All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
        We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
        Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

        Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

        Seatours
        - adventure cruise

        Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
        and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

        The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

        600x400-seatours-tasting

        This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

        600x400-seatours

        The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

        Birds, possible to spot:
        -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
        -eider ducks
        -shags
        -kittiwakes
        -fulmars
        -white-tailed eagle

        The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
        Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

        Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

        Contact Us


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