We are Bára Grímsdóttir and Chris Foster and we live in Reykjavík, Iceland. FUNI is an old Icelandic word meaning fire. It was also the name of one of Bára's Grandfather's favourite horses. Her Grandma, Pjeturina wrote a poem about it.
We in turn made it into a song.
We have both been singing all of our lives and we started working together in 2001, breathing new life into great songs that have been hidden for too long in old recordings and dusty old books, as well as writing new ones.
Iceland has a unique and wonderful folk song heritage, but sadly, it has remained largely hidden from today’s folk, and wider music audiences, both at home and abroad. So we are bringing it into the light for people to enjoy.
Together, we have performed and taught at festivals, concerts, summer schools and on radio and TV in Belgium, China, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Holland, Hungary, Ireland, Norway, Poland, Rumania, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA, as well as throughout Iceland and Britain.
“It’s not every day that an unfamiliar, yet readily accessible new tradition comes along, so check this out.”
Nick Beale - fROOTS magazine
If you want to know more about our work, just send us a message from the contact page.
news & stuff
Big honour for Bára
On 17th June 2019 (75th anniversary celebration of Iceland's full independence from Denmark), Bára was invested as a Knight of the Order of the Falcoln, by President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson. The honour was awarded 'For protecting and re-newing the traditional music of Iceland'.
This is just about the highest official pat on the back that you can get in Iceland. Bára is one of 16 people who received the award this year.
Here's a photo of Bára with her medal and the President.
A quick update of our activities in 2019
2019 got off to a slow start public performance wise, because we have been busy behind the scenes, working on some exciting new projects. Apart from her work in Funi, Bára is also a busy composer. She writes music for all sorts of groups and occasions and is currently working on a big project, composing an opera about the life and times of Jón Arason, the last catholic bishop of Iceland, who was executed along with his sons in the reformation of 1550.
Vaka Folk Music Weekend 31st May to 2nd June
From 2015 - 18 Chris was the programme co-ordinator for the Vaka Folk Arts Festival, in Akureyri in the north of Iceland. Vaka was set up to provide a space and opportunity for people to come together to sing, play and listen to Icelandic traditional music, along with songs and music from our northern European neighbours.
In 2019 we moved Vaka to Reykjavík, where we put together an organising group, made up of people active in the emerging folk / roots music community in the area. This first Vaka in Reykjavík was an intimate, small scale event, with a focus on people coming together to share music and ideas for the future. It was held in the Dósaverksmiðju / The Tin Can Factory language school. Artists and participants alike were very pleased with the weekend, which left us feeling enthusiastic and energised to do more events at the Tin Can Factory.
Iceland does not have an established 'folk scene' or network of players, promoters and venues along the lines found in many other European countries. Building those networks takes a lot of time and energy from a lot of people. Over the past few years there have been exciting signs of 'green shoots' emerging and things starting to happen here.
We are committed to playing our full part in this exciting process.
New Funi album
Meanwhile, Chris has been working on plans for recording our third full length Funi album this summer. We have been casting our net wide and collecting together songs and rímur extracts that are very little known and Bára has also been writing new tunes for some of the texts. This process of discovering and then arranging hidden riches is one of the things that we love about working with traditional music, whether it's from Iceland or England.
We are adding a new dimension to this album project. As well as our usual song arrangements, with langspil, Íslensk fiðla, kantele and harmony vocals, we are working with our friend Buzby Birchall of Hidden Sounds to make special recordings in the Icelandic landscape. We have already started recording in locations connected with the songs, so the sounds of the earth that the songs first sprung from will be present, like veins of minerals through rock, throughout the album. This extra dimension of recording inevitably adds significant costs over and above the cost of a regular studio album, so we will be launching a crowd funding scheme in the near future to ask people to help us realise this exciting new project.
The langspil comes to Nashville
Back in January we recorded langspil, Íslensk fiðla and vocals for a song on a new album by American singer and harpist Karen Thames Ballew, who is based in Nashville, USA. We wonder if this s the first time an Icelandic langspil has ever appeared on an album from Nashville?
On the second Tuesday of each month, along with our friend, Linus Orri Cederborg, Chris runs an open singing session in downtown Reykjavik. The idea behind the session is to create a welcoming space and opportunity for people to come and sing together. In particular we focus on the unique, two voice harmony songs called Tvísöngur. The sessions are held in the former home of Benedikt Gröndal a 19th century Icelandic naturalist, writer and all round cultural activist.
Kvæðamannafélagið Iðunn is one of the oldest established cultural organisations in Iceland. It was founded in Reykjavík in 1929 and is dedicated to the maintenance and preservation of the traditional Icelandic singing and poetic styles associated with the Icelandic rímur tradition. Bára was first introduced to this venerable society by her parents, who were active members. They took her along to meetings and expeditions as a child and she has been involved with it to a greater or lesser extent ever since.
Kvæðamannafélagið Iðunn was originally founded by working people who were moving into Reykjavík from the countryside. They wanted to keep up their old ways of entertainment. The first known rímur dates from the 14th century and the tradition continued as an important form of home entertainment in farms, right up to the 20th century, when big changes in Icelandic society and the arrival of home entertainment in the form of radio, and later on TV, led to its decline.
Bára has been the formaður (chairperson) of Iðunn since 2015. Now in this ninetieth anniversary year, the society is going from strength to strength as more people become interested in this unique and beautiful form of traditional ballads. The precise founding day of Iðunn was the 15th September 1929 and so the society is planning a special anniversary celebration weekend on the 14th -15th September 2019.
Dagur rímnalagsins / Day of rímur
In connection with its 90th anniversary celebration weekend, Iðunn is collaborating with the Icelandic Ministry of Education, Science and Culture to launch an education project taking the music and poetry of the rímur tradition into primary schools. Bára is working with fellow Iðunn member Ragnar Ingi Aðalsteinsson to make teaching materials for music teachers and Icelandic language teachers. They will be holding an introductory workshop with school teachers on 4th May. Then the teachers will bring their students to take part in the September celebrations. Following on from this year's project, it is planned to have an annual Dagur rímnalagsins.
First visit to Poland
Since we started performing together as Funi, we have been very fortunate and grateful to have the opportunity to play in many countries in Europe. A process, much helped by Iceland and the UK's membership of the European Economic Area. In May this year, we added another country to the list of places we have played, when we travelled to Szczecin in Poland to take part in the Szczecin Early Music Festival.
Baring-Gould Folk Festival
2019 will be the twentieth anniversary of the Baring-Gould Folk Festival. Chris was in at the very beginning of this lovely little festival, which takes place every October in Okehampton, in Devon. In 1999, he was hired by our friends at Wren Music to help organise the first three festivals. It was at the second festival, in 2000, that we first met, when Chris invited the Icelandic group Embla to perform at the festival.
Regular folk music activities in Reykjavík
Part of our mission as Funi is to share our traditional music and to collaborate with other enthusiasts to encourage more people to get actively involved in singing, playing and dancing. We are involved in several regular opportunities to get involved with playing and singing folk music in the Reykjavík area.
Iðunn holds monthly meetings at Menningarhús Gerðuberg from October to May. On the first Wednesday of the month people meet for the Kvæðaæfing session, where they practise singing traditional kvæðalög songs. Then, two days later, on the first Friday after the first Wednesday, the society has a general meeting with talks on all sorts of topics, short performances, singing, poetry writing and more besides.
There are two more Iðunn meetings in the year. On the 15th June, members gather at a picnic area that they maintain in a wooded area that they planted in 1991, at Heiðmörk, just outside Reykjavík. The other meeting is an annual coach trip on the first Saturday of September. These day trips visit places such as historic sites, museums, cultural organisations etc. The trip usually ends with a meal, before travelling back to Reykjavík.
As formaður of Iðunn, Bára has worked hard to encourage a more outward looking atmosphere, to attract more and younger members into the society. To that end, among other things, she has instigated an annual rímur concert every autumn (four so far) and also an annual 'Skemmtikvöld' an evening of funny songs and poems, which takes place in a bar or cafe downtown in the new year.
Another new initiative spinning out of Iðunn is a monthly singing session called Söngvaka. It is being organised by Chris and our friend Linus Orri Gunnarsson Cederborg. The idea of these sessions is to create an opportunity for people to sing together and to share and learn new songs. In particular we are focusing on Tvísöngvar, the traditional Icelandic two part harmony songs and the old dance ballads called Sagnadans or Vikivaki. In other words the kinds of traditional songs that we do not spend time on as part of Iðunn Kvæðaæfing sessions and which are largely overlooked in the wider Icelandic musical world. We have so far held seven well attended Söngvaka sessions and are looking forward to establishing them throughout 2019.
Reykjavík Trad Sessions
For some years now, there have been regular weekly folk music sessions in downtown Reykjavík. The music played at the sessions is primarily Irish, Scottish and Swedish tunes, with the occasional song added into the mix. There is a core group of about seven or eight people who turn up most weeks. Most of the players are immigrants or students who are studying here for a while and we also quite often welcome players from other countries who are passing through or here on holiday. The group is very friendly and both the music and the craic are very good.
The session has moved around a bit and is now at
(in the basement of the restaurant Hornið)
Check out the Reykjavík Trad Sessions Facebook page for regular updates about what's going on.
gigs & tour dates
Icelandic folk music, live and direct
Szczecin Early Music Festival
Evangelical Church of the Holy Trinity
31. maí - 2. júní
Vaka þjóðlagahelgi 2019
Dósaverksmiðju / The Tin Can Factory
Borgartún 1, 101 Reykjavík
Tónleikar / Concert
Umbra , Funi, Voces Thules,
Skuggamyndar frá Býsans
Langspils samkoma / Langspil session
Söngvaka / song session
9. júní, kl. 17.00
Tónleikar / Concert
í Saurbær við Hvalfjörðurströnd
17th - 30th September
Chris Foster solo tour in England
25th - 27th October
The Baring-Gould Folk Festival
Okehampton, Devon, England
Booking now for 2019
To enquire about booking us for concerts or workshops, just send us an email direct from the contacts page here on our website
Watch this space for more dates.
FLÚR (GMCD007) our album of 15 Icelandic songs was released in April 2013. Flúr is an old Icelandic word that means decoration or tracery.
The physical CD comes in a digipak along with a 32 page with lots of photographs, notes about the songs and full song texts in both Icelandic and English translation all beautifully designed by Inga Elsa Bergþórsdóttir.
As well as our usual mix of instruments, we are joined by some excellent musical friends and relatives who add their spice to the mix. This is family based, cottage industry record production at its very best.
… haunting and fascinating.
Simon Broughton – Songlines, October 2014
These consummate and intensely mesmerising performances are quite simply superb in their natural authority.
David Kidman - NetRhythms.co.uk, May 2013
It’s a particular pleasure, to come across this wonderful disc by Bára Grímsdóttir - one of Iceland’s foremost traditional singers - and
British-born multi-instrumentalist, Chris Foster.
Oz Hardwick R2 magazine - July 2013
You can download songs from FLÚR from Bandcamp or CD baby. You can buy the CD online from Bandcamp or from us in person, here in Reykjavík, via the email link on the contacts page, or at our gigs.
Click the link below to buy Flúr now...
Check out our other album, FUNI here:
Chris' solo albums, Hadelin and Outsiders are available as CDs or downloads here:
Chris' 1999 album Traces and 2004 album Jewels are also available as downloads only at:
Bára's kid's book
With her other hat on as a composer, Bára has written a musical story for children, titled Ævintýrið af Sölva og Oddi kóngi. Premiered as a live performance in January 2016, it is now published as a beautiful illustrated book with CD. The disc features narrator / singer Margrét Eir and an eleven piece band. Watch a trailor on You Tube here:
The book is published by