Secret Solstice: 3 days of music and daylight in Iceland
Iceland is a magical place. The tourist destination has long been known for its idyllic and photo worthy landscapes.
After the tours and the waterfalls, there’s a rich music culture and an appreciation that runs across generations. It’s why the lineup for the country’s largest festival, Secret Solstice, included The Prodigy, Anderson .Paak, Foo Fighters, Chaka Khan, Rick Ross, Young M.A, and Dubfire. On an island of only 330,000, most of the music that gets consumed here is consumed by everyone, no matter the age. Young fans crowded Chaka Khan, while some of the more daring adults got deep in the pit for The Prodigy, thrashing along with kids who weren’t even born when Fat of the Land was released.
Now in its third year, Secret Solstice has grown into an established event for both the people of Iceland and the visitors who descend on its capital city of Reykjavik for the summer solstice. For 3 days of endless daylight, a crowd of nearly 20,000 fills the city sports complex and the surrounding fields with music from all corners of the world. The best and brightest Scandinavian find themselves following up rap legend Pharoahe Monch, or cult phenomena Ata Kak, the Ghanian cab driver made famous by Awesome Tapes from Africa, who’s music somehow found its way into the ears of highschool age Icelanders that shouted every word he hyperactively rapped.
Photos courtesy of Secret Solstice and Damien Gilbert, Birta Ran, SOLOVOV, Asgeir Helgi, AKA Photography.
The Black Madonna and Seth Troxler kick off Hel
The festival was complete with its own late night dance club so when the curtains closed on the main stage, most found their way home but for everyone else there was Hel. Thursday’s night pre-party kicked the place off with a grungy array of house and techno. The Circoloco crew with Troxler at the helm painted Reykjavik’s sports complex in a haze of their signature red. Inside it was 3am. A smoldering cavern of drum beats stomped out by Icelanders of all ages. Outside the sun sat at the horizon, casting the outdoor smoker’s area in a perpetual dawn.
In the nights that followed, Hel would pack to the brim for John Acquaviva, Lane 8, Kiasmos, Livia, Dusky, Dubfire and more.
Ata Kak comes all the way from Africa
As the story goes, Ata Kak’s Obaa Sima was discovered by Awesome Tapes from Africa in a Ghanian marketplace. The cab driver turned rapper is now a cult sensation — and a world traveling artist with a seriously dedicated fanbase. Listen to the tape that made him famous.
Pharaoh Monch gets the f*ck up.
Pharoahe Monch had one of the festival’s rowdiest crowds, a far shot from the Bronx native’s home and his late nineties hit. But there was no shortage of knowledge or fandom for the rest of his catalog and his performance stood as one of the festival’s most memorable.
Iceland and London steal the show.
The former with their stripped down but infectious verses:
And the latter with her airy vocals and honest hooks.
And London’s Novelist kept the crowd locked in to his venomous flows.
Into the volcano
A day in the glacier
The festivals other excursion/music experience, dropped 100 of us at the top of the world’s largest glacier, where we then descended deep into a manmade ice cavern. Beers were chilled in the glacier itself. Day 1 was a strictly dance music affair, while day 2 featured XXX Rottweiler — the ruthless rappers who call Iceland their home.
Closing out with Anderson .Paak
The Los Angeles rapper brought along The Free Nationals for his Iceland debut. And the response was nothing short of historic. Paak, who’s skillset far exceeds his MC talents, fed off that first time energy and spent time playing the drums in a fervor while huffing and puffing out every verse.
As the sun refused to set on the final performance of the day, a small contingent of the crowd headed back to Hel. Dubfire was closing. And if the sun never sets than there’s no reason to go to sleep. At least not in Iceland. And definitely not during Secret Solstice.