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Vestur í bláinn

by Julius Pollux

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Adrian 05:23
Adrian, originally from England, has been living in Iceland since 2016. Whilst working as a baker covering night shifts he would stay in contact with his family back in England through voice messages, including his young niece Lizzy.
( ) 00:24
Fernanda 04:40
Fernanda has many experiences of being a migrant, she was born in Brazil into a family of Spanish, Italian and Japanese lineages. Seventeen years ago she left Brazil and moved to London, and then came to Iceland five years ago. In the song you hear Fernanda talking on the phone to her mother in Brazil. A term not easily translatable, the Brazilian expression ’saudade’ describes a sentiment that those living far away from their families might relate to.
Aleksey 04:59
Aleksey is a 63-year-old construction worker. With roots in Russia and Ukraine and after having spent most of his life in Latvia, he came to Iceland twelve years ago. “In the evenings, I play the guitar for myself alone at home,” was the headline of an article about him on the homepage of Efling, Iceland’s union for basic and low-income workers. In the recording, Aleksey recounts the story of one of his favourite Russian love songs, “Лирическая” by Vladimir Vysotsky. The song is about a man entering an enchanted forest to find the woman that he loves, trying to convince her of the modest but beautiful life that would await her with him.
( ) 00:26
words taken from: Eduardo Galeano, Immigrants Today, Voices of Time, 2006. Butterflies and swallows and flamingos have forever spread their wings to flee the cold, the way whales swim in search of other seas and salmon and trout seek out their rivers. Year after year, they all travel thousands of miles on the open roads of air and water. The roads of human flight, however, are not free. In immense caravans they march, fugitives fleeing their unbearable lives. They travel from south to north and from rising sun to setting sun. Their place in the world has been stolen. They’ve been stripped of their work and their land. Many flee wars, but many more ruinous wages and exhausted plots of land. These pilgrims, shipwrecked by globalization, wander about, unearthing roads, seeking homes, knocking on doors that swing open when money calls but slam shut in their faces. Some manage to sneak in. Others arrive as corpses that the sea delivers to the forbidden shore, or as nameless bodies buried in the world they hoped to reach. In forty countries, over several years, Sebastiao Salgado photographed them. Three hundred portraits of this immense human tragedy amount to barely a second. The light that entered his camera for those pictures was barely a wink of the sun’s eye, no more than an instant in the memory of time.
Joshua 06:29
Joshua is a refugee from Nigeria. In the spring of 2019, he was part of an independently organised group of refugees in Iceland that initiated protests against Iceland’s immigration/refugee policies. The group hoped to be heard by society and the government, demanding a better and more humane treatment of asylum seekers in Iceland, an end to the deportations, equal access to health care, the right to work, the closing of isolated refugee camps, and a substantial review for all applications for asylum. Like many other refugees from Africa, Joshua reached Europe on a small boat landing on the shores of Italy. There he lived on the streets for several years until he managed to come to Iceland. Eventually his case got rejected in Iceland and he was deported back to Italy.
Tomasz 05:33
Tomasz is a Strætó bus driver in Reykjavík. When looking for a change to his stressful job as an event and film production manager in Poland, Tomasz moved to Iceland embarking on a new career as a bus driver, which he enjoys a lot. Towards the end of the song, leading to the next sound piece, you hear Dušan's mother-in-law Marina talking to him and his family via Skype. Dušan and his guitar piece are featured in the following song.
Dušan 02:12
Instead of recording his voice, Dušan has incorporated guitar elements to this sound piece. Originally from Montenegro, Dušan followed his Serbian girlfriend Isidora to Iceland. They've been studying and working here for five years now and gave birth to their first child three years ago. Dušan and Isidora both work with kids in elementary schools in Reykjavík.
This song reflects on the story of the ‘Vesturfarar’. Around 1870-1910 almost one quarter of the Icelandic population left their homes and resettled mostly in North America, in search for better living conditions. Back then, life in Iceland was tough, poverty levels were high and many people suffered from hunger. Most of the voice recordings stem from the TV documentary ‘Vestur í bláinn’ (1975) and feature interviews with people who were part of the emigration wave. One of them, Salomé, talks about the journey, whilst Björn points out the difficulties of starting a new life in a faraway country.
Innocentia 06:39
Innocentia is a woman from Ghana who came to Iceland 18 years ago. She works as a cook in the kitchen of the hospital in Reykjavík and is married to an Icelandic man, with whom she has a son. The recorded material is Innocentia talking on the phone to her brother, who himself emigrated to Italy, as had their sister. Within their phone conversation, they share stories and memories about both joyous and sad recent events. They also include a little song from their village back home.
Anna 03:52
Anna is a labour organiser and care worker who moved to Iceland after finishing her master’s degree in Kraków. Living in Reykjavík, she worked within various occupations as a housekeeper, cleaner, waitress and teacher in an after-school programme. The recordings in this song are from a phone conversation that Anna had with her friend back in Poland. In addition, we hear excerpts from Anna’s speech during a protest march at the general strike in Reykjavík in the spring of 2019. She held her speech both in English and Polish, advocating for low-income workers and the migrant workforce. People of Polish origin constitute 5% of Iceland’s population and are the largest immigrant group.
Amir 04:20
Amir is a refugee from Afghanistan. Five years ago, he made his way to Europe alone as a teenager, going through precarious and life-threatening situations on his trip. After his application for asylum was rejected in Norway, he came to Iceland where he waited one year, only for his application to be rejected again. The Icelandic authorities unlawfully tried to deport Amir after he had already passed the one year quota, and would have been legally eligible for a substantial review of his case. With help from the No Borders activist group and a lawyer who sued the Directorate of Immigration, his case was finally taken up again. After over two whole years of waiting and hiding in Iceland, he finally was granted asylum.


Vestur í bláinn is an experimental music project on immigration in Iceland.
It aims to be a space for voices, different languages and stories of people from diverse origins, that are rarely heard in the context of arts or the public in general.

Along with the release of the music project, 'Vestur í bláinn' will be presented as a multidisciplinary art exhibition in Iceland from September 3rd to September 30th. The exhibition takes place in ten public locations all over Reykjavík, with the participation of various local artists, curated by Claire Paugam and Julius Pollux Rothlaender.



All proceedings from sales on bandcamp will be donated to No Borders Iceland.



released September 1, 2020

All music written, recorded and produced by Julius Pollux Rothlaender.
Mixed by Greg Giorgio.
Artwork by Claire Paugam.

Additional musicians:
Ægir Sindri Bjarnason, drums & percussion (#1, 6, 7, 10, 12)
Sigurlaug Thorarensen, vocals (#3, 6, 7, 9, 11)
Tumi Árnason, saxophone (#3, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12)
Maja Gravermoen Toresen, violin (#6, 7, 9, 10, 12)
Martijn Eikenhout, double bass / guitar (#4, 7, 8)
Eugénie Ricard, bassoon (#1, 9)
Alison MacNeil, voice (#5, 12)
Óli Kondrup, trumpet (#1)
Rakel Sigurðardóttir, violin (#1)
Brynja Bjarnadóttir, vocals (#3)
Asker Bjørk, drums (#3)
Peter Broderick, vocals (#4)
Hannah Epperson, vocals & violin (#4)
Maria-Carmela Raso, vocals (#4)
Mink Steekelenburg, synths (#7)
Bjarni Daníel, vocals (#7)
Dušan Ðurović, guitar (#8)
Afra Kane, vocals (#9)
Finnbogi Örn Einarsson, vocals (#11)
Sóley Stefánsdóttir, vocals (#12)
Moses Destiny, vocals (#12)

special thanks to:
all participants, voices, musicians - my siblings: Jonas, Pia, Justus, Leonie, Josephine, Max, Nico - Hugrún Jónsdóttir - Ægir Sindri Bjarnason - Sigurlaug Thorarensen - Claire Paugam - Liane Aviram - Friðjón Edvardsson - Atli Arnarsson - Elva Simundsson - Egill Helgason - Alexander Elliott - Anna Marjankowska - Patrik Ontkovic - Alda Lóa Leifsdóttir - Refugees in Iceland - No Borders Iceland - Reykjavík Grapevine - RÚV


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Julius Pollux Reykjavík, Iceland

Julius Pollux is always wondering; and currently exploring the human condition, bird life and the lights of cars passing by at night.

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