December 20,2020

Episode 3

From the Aralkum desert in Kazakhstan to spooky theremin sounds out of Iceland

Picture by Marta Witkowska
Picture by Marta Witkowska
Picture by Marta Witkowska

Episode 3 brings you unique theremin sounds from the Icelandic artist Hekla, an Afro-Caribbean hymn for life by the fearless duo Navarro / Holmes and a gorgeous and hypnotic love song from the Mali desert. We also discover Indus Bonze's Japanese version of Tanzanian singeli sounds and enjoy "Zhalanash" an excellent and hopeful neo-classic song by Galya Bisengalieva from Kazakhstan.

Featured Artist: Hekla

Hekla Magnusdottir is the full name of the phenomenal Icelandic artist, that balances the solo theremin, the subtle synth sounds and her mysterious voice in a unique way. She released her latest album "Sprungur" earlier this year on the amazing Phantom Limb Record Label. I would describe her music as melancholic, haunting and delicate. Her intense fragile sonic world shows the dreamy and the scary part of Icelandic folklore and traditions at the same time. This sound draws you fully into its evocative world.

During my last summer holiday in Matera, Italy, I stayed in an old restored Grotta, and when hearing Hekla's sound there for the first time, it seemed to me that it evolved directly out of this mysterious place. The sound melted like a ghost into the walls, and it stuck in the air as it has lived there forever. It was the perfect setting for this sound, and I found it lovely, uncertain and also scary at the same time - what a wonderful experience.
Hekla live

We got in touch with Hekla and wanted to find out more about her musical background, her creative process and how her home country Iceland might influence her music?

Can you tell us a little bit about your musical background – how, where and when you started with music and how did you develop your artistic voice?

I started learning the cello at 9 and then at around 19 I started playing the theremin. I started by just improvising by myself on a looper to develop my style more and more.

Hekla´s album cover for "Sprungur"

Where do your compositions or better your creative process normally start - as the theremin is mostly a central part - are the songs composed on the theremin - please give us an idea how this works out for you? 

I usually just improvise on my theremin with loopers and with some effect pedals, delay, harmonizer and distortion and others to try to produce new sounds and textures.

What is the story behind the song „Aftur Og Aftur“ that is featured in the podcast?

It's kind of a song for an imaginary monster in an imaginary horror movie.

Hekla´s haunting visuals

What influence does Iceland as a country with all its mystic landscapes,  folklore, dreamy fairytales have on your artistic work?

I think maybe the isolation might have an effect, especially in the wintertime when it storms a lot.

Hekla playing her theremin in the woods

Can you share with us three artists/albums that you listen to or that have inspired you lately?

Sóley - Harmónik I & II

Mammút - Ride the fire

Taylor Swift - Folklore


Hekla´s theremin magic