Today is Ólavsøka (well, it’s actually a multi-day holiday, and by that, I mean it’s 1.5 days, and July 29th is the 1.0 of the 1.5), which is the Faroe Islands’ National Day.
In the simplest way possible, this day celebrates the Saint that converted Norway to Christianity (and keep in mind that the Faroe Islands and the history of Denmark-Norway, now two separate countries, are very much linked. To this day, the largest Faroese communities outside of the Faroe Islands themselves are located in Denmark and in Norway respectively).
But you probably didn’t come for a history lesson, you came here for music, so that’s what I’m going to give you:
One of the Faroe Islands’ classical mainstays, Frændur (from an Old Norse word meaning friends, the source of the English word as well) has a well-established nostalgic feel to it, and the lyrics are not only eloquent but also helpful for beginner and intermediate learners.
This song is probably the closest thing that the Faroe Islands have to an unofficial national anthem (The title just means “The Faroe Islands”). If performed at a concert, expect literally everyone in the audience to start singing along, sometimes so strongly that the people on stage will go silent completely:
And while we’re on “I Love my Country” themed songs, I’ll throw you another one (“My Country”):
And a cover of that song done by many well-known Faroese singers:
- Terji og Føstufressar
I could try to translate this name cleanly but all I can come up with at the moment would be something like “Terji and the Fasting Munchers”. (Guess who neglected his study for Faroese for years? Shockingly I can still understand a lot of the lyrics and I can read even better than I ever remember being able to!)
Their first album won the title of Album of the Millennium in the Faroe Islands and they even came out with a sequel, just titled “Tvey” (“Two”).
That first album, just titled “Terji og Føstufressar”, concludes with the following harrowing song, with a chorus I’ve never forgotten: Snjóhvíta dúgvan er skotin til jarðar, sorlaðir liggja nú menniskjans sjálvgjørdu verjugarðar. “The snow-white dove is shot to the ground, it lies now, broken, mankind’s self-imposed line of defense”
And just listen to those sound effects at the end:
(That entire album is available on YouTube in Karaoke form if you want to sing along ,by the way).
And their second album contains this gem at the end. This song pretty much goes like “I really like spending time with you and I feel something… [mood whiplash in the course] … pity you and I aren’t getting together because you’re married and have kids!”
- Children’s Music Available from VIT
I bet you didn’t know you could play flash games in Faroese either! Click “spøl” on the link above. You can also get the highest possible score on the marshmallow game if you literally do nothing after angling the vehicle on an upward tilt after collecting one marshmallow (interestingly you get a game over when it gets so big that you have no choice but to hit yourself. Oh, it’s a snake clone, sorry if it wasn’t clear from the outset).
- Rasmus Rasmussen
One of the most sublime musicians I’ve ever heard in my life, Rasmus Rasmussen’s instrumental guitar music is a divine experience that you just simply have to partake of.
His life story sadly involved being bullied as a result of having come out of the closet and ultimately resulted in his suicide, and it could be argued that his death and significant suffering beforehand actually spurred a change in the Faroe Islands, in which homosexuality wasn’t always viewed kindly.
Within the past few years, I think the Faroe Islands have really changed in this regard (although definitely let me know more about this if you know more).
Let’s treat you to some of Rasmus’s music in his memory:
His digital albums are available at this bandcamp website, accessible here:
Probably one of the most recognizable voices in the Faroe Islands, Eivør Pálsdóttir combines primeval influences that echo not only the magnificent landscape of the Faroese but also of pre-Christian times.
Interestingly, some of the growling noises that you hear in many of her songs have an uncanny resemblance to Inuit throat-singing (which is heard more often in places like Canada and the USA given that Danish missionaries banned it in Greenland).
- Kári P.
A folk singer that always seems to carry tunes that you know you’ve heard before, but can never recognize exactly where from:
I learned from my Greenlandic music to save my heavy metal for the end. In honor of Ólavsøka, I figured I had to include the national anthem in here somewhere. Here it is. *smirk* (And yes, it is instrumental)
It means “Phantom” or “Vision” in Faroese, and they acquired a lot of attention back in March 2015 when they became the first-ever humans to film a music video during a solar eclipse.
Now, while they are a heavy metal band, keep in mind that this version is actually comparatively tame:
And last and certainly not least, let’s introduce you to the way they actually sound in their albums:
I remember one time I successfully got someone to think that the screaming voice you hear in the first song was actually how Faroese was spoken on a day-to-day basis.
I was told “Ha. I’m not that gullible”.
Appendix: Song Lyrics
The Faroe Islands may be a small country, but there’s a HUGE collection of song lyrics (in Faroese only) that you can use with learning as well as your Karaoke evenings or cover songs:
Did I leave your favorite Faroese musician out?
Are you a Faroese musician and did I leave YOU out?
Let me know in the comments!