The Icelandic band Hjalmar has, since its creation in 2004, become something of a cultural phenomenon in its home country.
The band that started out as an Icelandic reggae experiment managed, despite the disbelief of established record labels, to touch the island's souls with its capturing mixture of sunny reggae and Icelandic musical roots. The band's authentic sound, sincerity and respect for the music and audience as well have made Hjalmar one of Iceland's most cherished bands with an appeal to a wide group of audience. The band's live performances are extremely tight, energetic, and colorful and at the same time relaxed. Beautiful vibes overtake every crowd it performs before and people sing and chant along the contagious musical joy Hjalmar extends to its audience.
Hjalmar's original band members were Sigurdur Gudmundsson, Thorsteinn Einarsson, Gudmundur Kristinn Jonsson and Kristinn Snaer Agnarsson from Iceland, including Petter Winnberg from Sweden. When the band started playing in the summer of 2004 it quickly made a big impact on the Icelandic music scene and soon it overfilled every show and venue in Reykjavik. Its first album named 'Hljodlega af stad' (e. A Quite Take-Off) was released in September 2004 and got astounding reviews. It sold extremely well and was more than 35 weeks on the list for the best selling albums in Iceland. Critics cherished the album and chanted the new musical path no one in Iceland had dared to go before.
At the beginning of the year 2005 the band was the talk of the town and received two awards at the Icelandic Music Awards, 'Best Newcomers' and 'Best Rock Album'. The band was also nominated for 'The Best Live Act'. Later in the year 2005 the band transformed into an Icelandic / Swedish group when Kristinn Snaer left to be replaced by percussionist Nils Olof Tornqvist. Mikael Svensson simultaneously joined the group on keyboards. Hjalmar released its second album 'Hjalmar', in September 2005. The album was just as critically acclaimed as the first one and got nominated as the 'Best Pop Album' at the Icelandic Music Awards. Once again Hjalmar was also nominated for 'The Best Live Act'. The song, 'Ég vil fa mer kaerustu' (e. I Want To Get Me A Girlfriend) was the most played song on Ras 2 of the Icelandic National Radio that same year.
The band's third album 'Ferdasot' (e. Dusty from Traveling) came out in November 2007. Although the band was still mainly playing reggae, this third album showed tendency towards more aggressive music as well as strong references to Icelandic musical tradition and folk music in general. The texts were also more personal and at the Icelandic Music Awards 2007 Thorsteinn Einarsson, Hjalmar’s main text writer, got nominated as 'Text Writer of the Year'.
Shortly after the release of Ferðasót, the Swedish part of the band was replaced by local drummer Helgi Svavar Helgason and bass player Valdimar Kolbeinn Sigurjónsson. The Swedes turned to their homecountry to pursue they musical carrier there and have since worked on personal project and played with number of well known musicians such as Lykke Li, Miike Snow and El Perro Del Mar.
But Hjalmar were not quite done with Sweden because in July 2008 Hjalmar joined forces with Swedish rapper and songwriter Timbuktu for the song 'Dom hinner aldrig ikapp'. The song was an instant radio hit in Iceland and was released on Timbuktu's album 'En high 5 & 1 Falafel' later that year.
In May 2009, Hjalmar went to Jamaica to record at the famous Harry J Studio and the Tuff Gong Studio, along with local reggae artists such as Cat Coore, Sticky, Robbie Lyn and Dean Fraser. Those recordings ended up on Hjalmar's fourth album, 'IV', released in September 2009. IV’s release was waited with much excitement in Iceland and reached a platinum record status only four months after its release. The album was nominated as 'Best Pop/Rock Album' at the Icelandic Music Awards 2010 and was chosen the 'Album Of The Year' by Ras 2 national radio. Along with IV, Hjalmar also released a documentary about the making of IV in Jamaica called 'Higher You and I'. The documentary was well received and has been shown at Channel 2 in Iceland, at Iceland Airwaves and at Reykjavik International Film Festival.
In October 2010 Hjalmar released their fifth album, Keflavik Kingston, which is a collection of previously unreleased singles along with several new songs. Amongst songs on the album are Ljosvikingur where Hjalmar joined forces with Mugison, a dub version of Disa's Anniversary and Dom hinner aldrig ikapp with Timbuktu. This album release coincides with the release of an extensive photo book (264 pages) that includes photos from the very first days of Hjalmar in small town Keflavik, the making of IV in Kingston in 2009 and other events in between. The photos in the book are all shot by photographer Gudmundur Freyr Vigfusson (Gundi).
The individual members of Hjalmar are all well respected within the Icelandic music and entertainment scene as either solo artists, text writers, producers (albums, music for TV, commercials, film and theater) as well as playing and recording with other Icelandic artists and bands.
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