bríet — DINO & on iceland’s æthereal music

icelandic music has long captivated me, just like iceland has long captivated me. an interesting country, iceland reminds me that no matter one’s excuses (being from “the country” versus “the city,” being “isolated,” being from a religious background, being conservative, etc.) you can still have socially liberatory politics. all of those descriptors fit iceland and its history in one way or another, but of course iceland is not so simple. icelanders who fit all of those descriptions—rural, isolated, religious, conservative—can still be supporters of women’s and lgbtq+ rights. many are. of course, as the song i am about to translate below attests to, iceland is all and none of these things: questioning the very dichotomies, i think, that we rely on in how we conceptualise and conceive of our own geography and world.

the intriguing thing to me, which i think goes hand-in-hand with this kind of cultural attitude, is how aethereal icelandic music is. a lot of icelandic indie, a huge genre for such a small country, really highlights the qualities of this that rely on high melodies and an almost whisper-like quality to the sung word. even in icelandic rap and hip hop, one can see this at play.

as a kind of introduction to possibly more examples of the genre, i translate below one of just a dozen or so icelandic songs currently on repeat on my phone and buzzing in my headphones. the song is DINO by bríet, an icelandic egyptian (what isolation?) woman artist, written about the artist’s boyfriend whenever she is stress.

it is this kind of aethereal quality that, even when a song is upsetting, is calming and centring and meditative. this kind of aethereal musical quality, which i do not really have the vocabulary or knowledge to describe about in a nuanced and meaningful way, is not just icelandic, of course. but i have found it in the work of so many icelandic artists.

watch bríet explain her song in icelandic, with english captions:

lyrics

hey
stundum er ég reið þó það sé ekkert að
leita og leita en hverju er ég að leita að?
hey
sometimes I’m angry even though it’s nothing
look and look but what am I looking for?
því ég veit alveg hvernig ég haga mér
hvernig ég læt, þú
ert fyrsta manneskjan sem að ég hringi í þegar ég græt
because I know exactly how to behave
how do I do, you
are the first person that I call when I cry
ég veit alveg hvernig ég haga mér
hvernig ég læt
i know exactly how to behave
how I leave
ég veit
ég ýtti þér í burt og gleymi
þú ert alltaf til staðar
þegar á reynir
i know
i pushed you away and forgot
you are always there
when push comes to shove
sorrý með allt sem að ég segi
ég vil að þú vitir
þú ert bestur í heimi
sorry for everything I say
i want you to know
you are the best in the world
ég vil að þú vitir
þú ert bestur í heimi
i want you to know
you are the best in the world
vildi ég væri meira eins og þú
minna blóððheit og meira þolinmóð
svolítið eins og þú
gæti höndlað mistökin þín eins og þú höndlar mín
meira eins og þú
vísað þér veginn eða af vegaleið
meira eins og þú
alveg eins og þú
i wish I was more like you
less blood pressure and more patience
a little like you
could handle your mistakes as you handle me
more like you
showed you the way or the way out
more like you
just like you
ég veit alveg hvernig ég haga mér
hvernig ég læt, þú
ert fyrsta manneskjan sem að ég hringi í þegar ég græt
i know exactly how to behave
how do I do, you
are the first person that I call when I cry
ég veit alveg hvernig ég haga mér
hvernig ég læt
(hvernig ég læt)
i know exactly how to behave
how I leave
(how I leave)
ég veit
ég ýtti þér í burt og gleymi
þú ert alltaf til staðar
þegar á reynir
i know
i pushed you away and forgot
you are always there
when push comes to shove
sorrý með allt sem að ég segi
ég vil að þú vitir
þú ert bestur í heimi
sorry for everything I say
i want you to know
you are the best in the world
ég vil að þú vitir
þú ert bestur í heimi
þú ert bestur í heimi
i want you to know
you are the best in the world
you are the best in the world
(stundum er ég reið þó það sé ekkert að
leita og leita en hverju er ég að leita að?)
(sometimes I’m angry even though it’s nothing
look and look but what am I looking for?)
ég veit
ég ýtti þér í burt og gleymi
þú ert alltaf til staðar
þegar á reynir
i know
i pushed you away and forgot
you are always there
when push comes to shove
sorrý með allt sem að ég segi
ég vil að þú vitir
þú ert bestur í heimi
sorry for everything I say
i want you to know
you are the best in the world
ég vil að þú vitir
þú ert bestur í heimi
i want you to know
you are the best in the world
ég vil að þú vitir
þú ert bestur í heimi
i want you to know
you are the best in the world