Iceland is a land of beauty and simplicity. As soon as I landed at the airport at Keflavik the landscape enveloped me. Miles and miles of rock formations without a single tree in sight…
The city of Reykjavik is around 45 minutes from the airport and is small, compact and easy to navigate. The sun shining for 22 hours in early summer did help the case. The town itself is steeped in art and culture. Everywhere you turn, there are interesting murals on the walls and artwork on the roads. The attractions and the sights outside Reykjavik are simply stunning from the geo-thermal geysers to waterfalls and then the mesmerizing landscape.
I also came across a very vibrant music scene all across the city. Being fortunate to be located next to the newest venue “Menghai”, I had the good fortune to watch a couple of experimental concerts in the space led by some extraordinary young musicians and also meet the creators of the Menghai Tea House. Andras and Olga had travelled from Budapest to introduce tea making to the coffee drinking Icelandic masses. It was just a pleasure sitting and sipping tea with them and discussing the merits of the unfurling jasmine tea versus the delicious Darjeeling and watch the intricate and meditative process of making tea. If on the one hand the smaller venues had the edge of intimacy, the Harpa which is the biggest concert venue had grandeur and luxury. I had the privilege of watching some brilliant Women composers on my third evening in Reykjavik and felt truly blessed. The sheer joy of listening to wonderful music is unbeatable.
Lullabies are an integral part of Iceland and I had the pleasure and joy of discussing that with a variety of artists and organisations on my trip. I also had the chance to discuss lullabies with the wonderful Arna and Hjordis and will be going back soon to discuss the practicalities of bringing the project to Iceland and I truly cannot wait to go back and work with some of the music and musicians I met there.
Sometimes life surprises you and Iceland took my breath away on various occasions. Walking in the mild sunshine on the last day and watching the sun rise from behind the iconic “Sun Voyager” a sculpture installed on the harbor front, I felt completely at peace and rejuvenated enough to continue my journey exploring lullabies.
Supriya Nagarajan, Artistic Director of Manasamitra
Manasamitra’s Artistic Director, Supriya Nagarajan, visited Finland in April 2015. She shares her experience here.
I visited Scandinavia in September 2014 and met a number of artists, educators and interesting people who were keen to support our next artistic vision of lullabies from around the world. I kept the conversation flowing after returning to the UK and my April trip to Finland was a culmination of talks, ideas and some fun and laughter along the way. Laura who arranged for the workshops and lectures in April works with early years education and both of us were very excited about the possibilities of exploring lullabies with future teachers
I set off to explore Finland on the 28th of April. The flight was eventful with high levels of turbulence and travelling alone meant that I had no hand to hold or squeeze tight when the plane jumped around in the air pockets. I was stopping over at Denmark which is one of my favourite destinations in the Nordics because of some fantastic musicians I have come across here. Copenhagen airport was uneventful and I connected to Finland. On landing in the Vantaa, the weather was dull, rainy and sombre although the view from the plane as we were landing, was of a lovely planned city, with water meandering in the midst.
After an uneventful journey on the local bus, I reached my hotel located at the heart of the Kamppi shopping centre in Helsinki. Since Helsinki is two hours ahead I had an early start at the Metropolia University. The next morning after a two minute underground journey on the tube I reached the university. The building is situated on a waterfront street and has a light airy feel to it. Soon I was immersed in a classroom with some very enthusiastic musicians and teachers keen to explore the traditions and sounds of lullabies from another culture. The day passed very quickly and we explored compositions, composing techniques and learnt Indian raga’ and the outcome was four new lullabies using both Indian and Finnish musical influences. A completely successful and fascinating result. We lunched together and over a platter of vegetables and bread we discussed the importance of music in Finland.
Finland attaches a lot of importance to music education and every child has access to good quality music lessons. That explained the school children carrying instruments around that I had noticed in the morning.
One of the participants I met in the workshop, Saija has an understanding of Carnatic music through her frequent travels to India. That made for interesting discussions. We continued talking over tea in the most delightful tea place. Set in a back street in Helsinki town centre, Thehuene is remarkable and stocks tea from all parts of the world. We discussed music, mindfulness and life as we sipped Mumtaz Iranian tea and new connections were made.
That evening, I visited the Kamppi Chapel of silence which is an incredible acoustic space, an oasis of calm located in the centre of the shopping complex. I also walked to the ROCK CHURCH (TEMPPELIAUO). Excavated directly into solid rock, the Temppeliaukio church is situated in the heart of Helsinki, at the end of Fredrikinkatu. Because of its special architecture, the church, completed in 1969, is one of the main attractions in Helsinki.
The next day was a whirlwind of activity. The 1st of May is a national holiday and a day of celebration in Finland. Going out into town with Saija’s family I was part of an outdoor picnic where all the residents relaxed in the mild sunshine on the harbour front on cold crisp morning. After a lunch stop with Saija and her family, I boarded the flight back.
A very satisfying visit, new friends made and music explored. Laura is working on a module based on lullabies for the autumn term and I am excited to be part of it. Watch this space.
Background to the project by Artistic Director Supriya Nagarajan
I was visiting a remote part of the South Indian countryside two years ago, the kind of place where villages have no electricity in the evening and everything goes dark. I was on my way back from a temple one evening and I walked past some paddy fields. It was planting season and the women were at work. Children played while infants slept in makeshift cradles tied on trees as slings.