Author: Deborah

Hildur Gunadóttir: A Songwriter in Iceland

Hildur Gunadóttir: A Songwriter in Iceland

In two scores, Hildur Guðnadóttir creates music ‘like a ghost’ and finds hope amid anger.

When Hildur Guðnadóttir first moved to Iceland in 2002, she was surrounded by’very modern’ buildings and concrete. A few years later, the country’s economy had collapsed; the price of petrol was about $1 a liter. She had heard that this was a new land of artists and she wanted in.

‘My husband says I am a mess. My daughter says, “Be careful you don’t step on a cat’s turd in the middle of the road.”‘

Guðnadóttir began to look for land to rent in the central Reykjavík region, near the university. She bought a large piece of land called Gísladott, and opened Hildur’s Bistro, a restaurant that would become her artistic home.

She wrote, played and sang almost every day. In 2011 she was forced to seek asylum in Italy because the political situation in her homeland was too unstable.

Her songs capture the daily life in Iceland, which she describes as ‘a ghost’ in two songs. ‘Ghost-land’ and ‘Ghost-land on my mind’ are suffused with anger and anguish from the country’s financial and diplomatic crisis.

Her songs capture the daily life in Iceland, which she describes as ‘a ghost’

In ‘Ghost-land’ she writes about the price of oil and the collapse in the country’s currency, the króna. In its place, she says, she had been given ‘an awful present’. ‘It was as if the government had sold us out to the bankers and the investors in London.’

In ‘Ghost-land in my mind’, she writes about emigration and loneliness. ‘I am left alone with only my pain in the house where I live in Reykjavík.’

Both songs capture the daily life in Iceland that Guðnadóttir had always known, but she says the country has changed. She is now an artist in her late 30s and lives a’very modern’ apartment in Reykjavík.

‘It’s not something that is immediately easy,’ she says. ‘You don’t want to look too far behind you to see how things have changed – but I like that

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