I'm asked quite a lot why I'm so into the Faroe Islands. And part of the answer is this vague, undefined idea about a place nearby yet isolated, exotic yet familiar. Another more simple answer is that the Faroe Islands are pretty. Just look at this photo of Runavik
taken by Erik Christensen
.* (Please see correction below
) With all due respect to the good folk of Runavik, the town is a rather nondescript part of a 7 mile long stretch of towns. In other words, it's nothing special. But look at it. It is still a beautiful place I would love to visit.
But there's another element to my Faroe fascination, and it's best illustrated by the events of the past week or so.
I was chatting online with someone who is basically a self-appointed goodwill ambassador for the Faroe Islands. He loves the place, and loves sharing stories about the islands he calls home.
We were talking about music and he mentioned that "Boys in a Band," had put out a new album. BIAB is quite possibly the most popular band in the Faroes right now, and they're starting to make a name for themselves on the international state. They won the International Battle of the Bands in London several months ago. And they earned good notices after their performance at South By Southwest in Austin.
So I was asked if I had heard the new album yet, and I said "no." Then I checked on iTunes, and found it wasn't available there, either. So my Faroese friend said, "wait a moment," and then said, "it's taken care of." He later explained that he had IMed the lead singer of BIAB and told him to send me a copy of the album. And today, this arrived...
Stamp nerds would be excited by this envelope because Faroese stamps are rare, so allow me to taunt all those philatelists out there...But, of course, I knew what was inside, the new CD...It's not the most flattering picture of me, I know, but I wanted the lads to see their music had safely arrived in the northwest corner of the United States.
On the back was a handwritten note from Pætur Zachariasson saying, "I really hope you'll like the album. Inside, all the band members had signed the inner sleeve of the CD. They even mailed a poster.
I'll write about the music in a week or so once it's had a chance to sink in, but I will say that the first spin is quite a fun listen. On the band's MySpace page, they say they sound like "Dylan on amphetamine." That accurately describes the speed and enthusiasm of the album. And the description also sums up the feeling of reckless fun that skitters across the 12 short songs on "Black Diamond Train." I'll write more on the music when I've had a chance to listen to the album a few more times.
I'm thrilled to have this album for several reasons. First off, it's some fine music, and I love music. But more than that, I love what it represents. A bunch of people, on a tiny island far from here, got together and did something really kind for a complete stranger. My Faroese friend knows me only from online contacts. "Boys in a Band" don't know me at all. Yet these people were so excited about their home and their music and their culture that they spent time and money to share it. That is cool beyond my ability to describe in writing, but suffice it to say that I am deeply moved by the gesture.
While I can't claim to be any expert on the Faroes (I've never even been there), I'm learning that personal relationships are very important there. This hardly seems surprising when you realize that there are only 48,000 people living on the islands. For better or worse, everyone knows everyone there. There is something charming about a place where a person can IM the lead singer of the country's biggest rock band. Where a person can read a story in the newspaper, send a text message to the Foreign Minister to voice an opinion, and actually get a personal reply.
I'm well aware that there are drawbacks to to living in a place where everyone is in everyone's business and it's impossible to run away and reinvent yourself. But when you come from a place where people spend too much time sequestered in their cars or in small stucco fortresses, the Faroese model can look pretty attractive.
Thanks to all who made this small bit of kindness happen. I hope I can return this kindness some day.
(UPDATE 1/20/09: Someone with more knowledge than me has let me know that the picture at the top of this post is not of Runavik but of Toftir. Hopefully one day I will travel to both places so I will know the difference. Thank you for pointing out my error.)
Labels: Faroe Islands, music