many island nations, its seeming inaccessibility can be both its strength and
its weakness. For Kristian Blak, a Danish composer and musician who moved to
the Faroes over forty years ago and who is central to its ever-growing live
music scene, music makes the very most of the
intimacy engendered in hard-to reach-places.
Music, like poems and stories were handed down orally in song. ‘In the
Faroe Islands it is an unbroken tradition’, he says. Cultural separation from
Europe meant that, ‘there were no instruments so it was not like Scotland where
you have the fiddle. It was like a refrigerator where you have the same
tradition for 500 years.’
This rich tradition of passing down songs has continued, aided in recent
years through a series of sub-sea tunnels and new roads that connect even the
most far-fetched outpost. ‘This is a small country, almost, in the European
sense, a village’ but it is a sea-faring one and in this manner has roots in Argentina,
New Zealand, South Africa and collaborators from all over the world.
Kristian runs a series of bi-weekly concerts in a sea cave on the island of Hestur. Approached in a schooner named Nordlysid (Northern Lights), upwards of 50 participate as audience members. Each performance is spellbinding. ‘It’s like a cathedral’, says Blak, ’50 metres up and 200 metres deep with a whole system of caves. A couple of weeks ago, and I don’t know if it’s true, but it was announced that it’s the biggest sea grotto in the world’.
The draw of course, is not only the majestic surroundings but the length of sound elicited from instruments, too. The first very instrument to be played here was a trombone and the composer recalls that it was ‘ a real ear opener; I’d never heard anything like it’.