Jazz in the Faroe Islands

Jazz became popular in the Faroe Islands in line with in the rest of Europe. As early as in 1923, there was a Faroese band called Jazzband Triumph.  Up until 1975, when a jazz club was founded, the jazz that was played on the Faroe Islands comprised mainly of standard world repertoire. The jazz club laid the grounds for jazz composition and not longer after, it was founded, the first recordings with compositions by Ólavur Øster, Kristian Blak, Jóhannus á Rógvu Joensen, Sunleif Rasmussen and Edvard Nyholm Debess, were released. The club, named Havnar Jazzfelag, was very active during the late 70’s and early 80’s, organising several concerts a week and promoting international artists at least on a monthly basis.

In this environment, a new generation of jazz musicians grew up, including Leivur Thomsen, Arnold Ludvig, Rógvi á Rógvu and Magnus Johannessen, who also started releasing records with their own original material in the 90’s with Holger Laumann & Plúmm, Green Gate and more recently, Magnus Johannessen’s MAGNUS in 2010, Kim Kristensen’s ALDA MAGNA with some of Leivur Thomsen’s compositions and Arnold Ludvig Sextet’s VOYAGES in 2013, all on Tutl Records.

This resulted in a diverse jazz scene on the Faroe Islands with a healthy balance between standard jazz repertoire and original Faroese jazz music. In 1983, the jazz club lost its venue and from 1984 and through to 2004, the activities of the club were concentrated into an annual festival, ‘Tórshavnar Jazz, Fólka og Blues Festival’ (Tórshavn’s Jazz, Folk & Blues Festival), which then provided the opportunities for composers in the relevant genres to showcase their work.

This festival is now integrated into Summartónar – the Faroese composers’ festival.

Since the early 90’s new musicians and composers have made their entrance into Faroese music from a very young age. These include Heðin Ziska Davidsen, Búi Dam, Mikael Blak, Brandur Jacobsen, Eivør Pálsdóttir and Benjamin Petersen, who all have shown a natural individuality and whose compositions, because of their involvement in several different genres, are often a fusion of two or more genres in one.

Faroese jazz, world and folk artists have toured throughout the world and have shown that it is possible for musicians to have the Faroe Islands, despite it being a very small society, as their base.