Interview – A complicated web of words

Wednesday October 29th. 1997 – People in the news

A complicated web of words.



Quarashi MBL Oct 1997 photo

Quarashi is the debut album of rap band Quarashi.

Quarashi is: Sölvi H. Blöndal, drummer and programmer, Höskuldur Ólafsson rapper, Steinar Orri Fjeldsted rapper and Richard Oddur Hauksson, Dj. Others who helped with the album were Viðar Hákon Gíslason and Gaukur Jörundsson baseplayer, Margrét Kristín Blöndal singer, Ómar Örn Hauksson who owns lyrics and raps in one song, Jóhann Jóhannsson and Hrannar Ingimarsson who both handled the recording and Hrannar soundmixed with Sölvi. The directing of the recording was in the hands of Sölvi except for one song that he and Höskuldur did together. Lax Records/POP Músík release. 58.53 min.

ICELANDIC rap doesn’t have a very long history and it could be said that it begins with this album from the Quarashi guys, who released a memorable single last year. That single has been hard to get, limited release, and is bought and sold at a very expensive price. The songs that were on the single are also on this album, which is good, plus the songs that were playing this summer, but the sound is majorly improved and some of it more or less redone.

Rap originated with black people in America, but like most forms of music it has a life outside of it’s birthplace. You can go different ways, you could try to imitate the existing role models as much as you can, or, like Quarashi, with Sölvi Blöndal leading them, create your own world of sound; use your own experience and musical background with rap and succeed in creating something new. People usually compare Quarashi to the Beastie Boys to describe their music, which is a badly supported presumption, that is proven when you listen to the new album. Sure, the steady and loaded beat is similar but the build of the songs and use of sound is closer to brittish breakbeat and electro-funk . A good example of that are the instrumentals like Hr.Jinx, the great base and other genius examples like Speedo, which flirts with powerful jungle, one of the most fun songs on the album, attention dancemusic-writers!

The instrumentals are very well fitted to break up the mood, some sort of entrée to clear the ears and calm down the audience for the next raid.

Quarashi’s mark is their creativity and imagination in their music, powerful rhythmic setup and fat background sound. Even so it’s all about the rap and that’s where Steinar and Höskuldur come in. They are extremely different rappers, from the writing of their lyrics to their performance and articulation, this gives a certain breadth to the songs. Lyric sheets with the lyrics on them would have been well appreciated, because when they’re at their loudest it’s hard to understand a word, but when the point comes through it’s fun and quite crazy at times. A certain Ómar comes to play in one song, Superwoman, and there he spins a referral-web that is sort of a guideline to the mind of the Icelandic youth in the 20th century. Brilliantly written text and well delivered and hopefully more will be heard from Ómar soon. Another outstanding lyric is to the song Lone Rangers, a snapshot from the centre of Reykjavík, and Catch 22 where the guys from Botnleðja play some part.

Some Icelandic rap enthusiasts have said that Icelandic isn’t a suitable language for rap-rhymes, that it’s too split-level and the grammar is in the way, to start a sentence you have to be sure where it ends. Steinar and Höskuldur prove, with the only Icelandic rap-song on the album, that is actually called the very “Danish” name framogtilbaka, that those arguments are bullshit, just like with rock. Icelandic ideology and text-flow fits tight with the rhythm base and it’s especially fun to hear how they solve the rhythm-traps, Steinar with speeding up or slowing down, and Höskuldur by lengthening the syllables. The bands who have devoted themselves to English-Icelandic rock lately are no longer a part of the Icelandic rock history  and the same t the same thing will happen with the bands in the Icelandic rap scene who will not  realize that the only way that this form twill live is to keep it in Icelandic, that’s where the performers who are forgotten as soon as they shut up and those who are expressing the Icelandic reality and are saying something important are separated.

This first try from Quarashi is superb, it is pretty much Sölvi’s work, but the other members of the band can not be forgotten, Steinar and Höskuldur who are cool and confident in a fun way and their webs of words are complicated, and Richard who DJ’s in a very tasteful manner. It was very uplifting to hear that Höskuldur is also an excellent singer, no less than he is a rapper, for example in Mr.Caulfield, the best song on the album, and Catch 22. It’s also worth it to mention that the sound on the album is very well done, especially the basis which is most important. The cover is also pretty good, one of the best that has been seen around here in the later years.

Árni Matthíasson

Morgunblaðið/Kristinn QUARASHI-menn fagna útkomu fyrstu breiðskífunnar í Þjóðleikhússkjallaranum.


Quarashi MBL Oct 1997

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