Greenland Eyes – Samaris & Nive Nielsen and the deer children


It is the night before Iceland Airwaves festival starts. Reykjavík is already swarming with festival goers. It’s not clear if tonight was planned so that as the Greenland Eyes Film Festival concludes just as Airwaves kicks off, or if this is just good luck.

Greenland Eyes International Film Festival is the largest biennial festival focusing on Greenland. The festival is touring the Nordic region with stops in Greenland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland and the Faroe Islands. Featuring more than 30 films made in Greenland by Greenlanders as well as other nationalities, the festival encompasses features, documentaries, shorts, music videos and historical portraits and screenings are followed by expert moderated Q&As. This is the end of the Icelandic leg, and is celebrated at the Nordic House to a packed out crowd.

Samaris are announced here as “local heros” and deservedly so; their success over the past few months is truly deserved and a result of their smart beats and clever electronics, paired with unusual vocals and even more unusual clarinet.

The first few tracks misfire though, with Þórður seeming disinterested and Áslaug clutching her clarinet somewhat bizarrely like a precious toy firearm.The usual sequins and outlandish dress are also missing. A slower selection of their music doesn’t grab the crowd initially, and is played over sometimes unsettling images of Greenlandic themes.

After a while, the hushed, echoed vocals of Jófríður start to worm their way through. A joke is cracked on stage. The beats quicken, and the band visibly relax. The last few tracks are real winners, especially the one introduced as ‘Ravens.’ Samaris are clearly treating this as a warm up for Airwaves. We probably should too. Later on in the week, probably in a later time slot with added beer, Samaris are going to be going full pace.

Nive Nielsen is a revelation. Appearing with her “deer children” backing band, she walked onto the stage with a minimum of fuss and started singing country/folk tinged songs, with a pure, strong voice. The majority of songs were sung in English, but her voice in Greenlandic was equally as striking, if not more so.

Nive hails from Nuuk She says that the first concert she ever played was for the Queen of Denmark on national television and she has apparently acted in a movie alongside Colin Farrell. Nive states that she writes songs about love and reindeer and forgetting to make coffee, and calls them “snow songs” or “Inuit indie,” which is kind of cute.

A multitude of technical failures, including faulty monitors, drooping mics and a restart for one song did not throw Nive one bit. She continued to smile throughout. The Deer Children provided a solid Americana back drop, but you get the feeling the Nive could dispense with their services at any point and just revert to her and her ukulele. If this is what Inuit Indie is like, I need to hear more.

Originally published on Iceland Review online.