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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hogni Makes Bid for SXSW

One Faroese artist (The Ghost) is already scheduled to play at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas. Now there's a chance a second artist could perform as well.

Hogni plays straightforward rock and blues that evokes Ben Harper and Lenny Kravitz, and he's on a shortlist to play in a showcase at SXSW. Sixteen artists are up for the honor, and the winner will be determined by Internet voting.

You can vote for Hogni at

Hogni is currently ranked 7th. You can vote more than one time, so if you've got some spare time, stuff the ballot box and make some history... sort of.

UPDATE, March 1, 2009: Hogni is now ranked 6th. Keep up the good work.

UPDATE, March 2, 2009: Hogni is now 5th. We're making a difference.

Video of severe winter storm, February 2008

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Five Questions With Luis Fernando Camacho.

This is the first in an occasional series where we ask Faroe Islands enthusiasts why they're interested in that far-off country...

1) Who is Luis Fernando and what does he do for a living?
A = Luis Fernando Camacho is a self-taught artist who currently resides in Las Vegas NV, USA

2) Have you ever been to the Faroe Islands?
A= No, never been to the Faroe Islands

3) When did you first hear about the Faroe Islands?
A= A few years ago when I met a Faroese at Art School in Guadalajara, Mexico.

4) Were you fascinated with the place, once you got to know more about it? If so, why?
A= Of course! Everything about the Faroe Islands I found fascinating, starting with the landscape. It was totally unrelated to what I saw before, seemingly out of a fairy tale. A society physically isolated from the rest of the world, which seems to function just fine, or better than any other; perhaps the fact it is a small nation geographically, gives them better control over any kind of social problems. And to complete the picture: The Faroese people, which are very simple people, without pretensions of any kind, deeply proud of their roots and attached to their traditions. However, "being proud of their roots and attached to their traditions" does not seem so special, and can be seen in other cultures, but the humble and subtle way they preach it makes the difference. Music is a good example, if you listen to some themes from decades ago (before globalization took by assault the core of most cultures), you will find songs with regard to some town, some fishermen and even about the weather, and are executed with a dye completely solemn. It seems like they write hymns to celebrate and honor every aspect of their life in the islands. Even in the music nowadays, although it is not so solemn and executed according to more current styles, that "Folk" essence remains, indisputably linked to their roots. How remarkable it is that some of those musicians being excellent performers, with international careers that any other musician in the world would only dream to have, remain practical and realistic. This speaks of their simple, down to earth attitude. Once, not long ago, a friend (Faroese musician) told me, "Ordinary people doing extraordinary things." It all comes down to that.I can imagine what it is like to grow up in the Faroe Islands, to live in an isolated place, an "oasis" where the notion of a whole world out there, is always present in you. Maybe for that reason, young Faroese people travel all the time with such fervor to explore what's out there. Being in constant contact with nature and having the opportunity to compare it to other places, might be the main cause of the attachment to their "Eden," and the cause of solemnity when referring to their country. A constant source of inspiration... which might also be the reason why it seems like in the Faroe Islands, talent can be found even underneath the stones...In my case, growing up in a place like Mexico, it does not present such opportunities. The state of global consciousness that seems a natural condition for Faroese people since they are kids, is more of a luxury for people in countries like mine; a luxury reserved only for those who are curious enough to explore and venture. Maybe these circumstances were the reason I have formed this poetic idea of the Faroe Islands, and it makes me find the place so fascinating.

5) On your first trip to the Faroe Islands, are there any special places you want to see, any goals you want to achieve?
A= On my first trip to the Faroe Islands, and like any good tourist, I would like to see with my own eyes and walk every corner of the islands, from north to south. To satisfy my curiosity about the culture and the Faroese lifestyle, I would like to spend a few months on the islands; eat, see and do what the locals do, experience a Summer and its "midnight sun", or the Winter and the aurora borealis. To indulge my fondness for Faroese music I would like to attend the G! Festival and maybe meet in person the members of my favorite bands. And as a professional goal, during my stay there, I'd like to paint my way of seeing and feeling the Faroese culture, and exhibit those paintings in a gallery or museum in the capital.

You can find Camacho's art at:, he can also be found at:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Podcast #4 is Here!

This week, we get schooled in Faroese political history, learn about a TV series filming in the Faroes, and take a trip to the airport.

As always, you can listen on the audio player here or on our Facebook fan page. You can also download us on iTunes, or just click on this link to download us directly:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Look at the Airport

This week's podcast includes sound from Vága Floghavn, the airport serving the Faroe Islands. So we thought you'd like to see what the place looks like as well.

Both of these pictures come from Arne List's beefy photoset on Flickr.

The airport's home page in English:

Links to webcams at the airport:

Monday, February 16, 2009

Obama Says "Hello" to the Faroes

Soon after Obama was sworn into office as the 44th President of the US, Faroese Prime Minister Kaj Leo Johannesen sent the new president a message of congratulations.

This week the Faroese PM received a reply:



If the press release is to be believed, Obama writes in all caps.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Podcast #3 is Here

In this episode, we learn about the upcoming G! Festival, speak with the woman directing tourism efforts for the Faroe Islands, and stand in the middle of Torshavn.

You can here the episode here, on iTunes, and on Facebook. You can also download the podcast directly here:

News Links:

Window to the World

This week's podcast includes a field recording taken from the very spot where this picture was taken. The podcast also makes reference to the webcam atop the hotel. If you look very closely, you can just barely see it.

If you want to see a live image from that webcam, just click here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Coming Soon: Polka

We're working hard on podcast #3, but in the meantime, enjoy some music that will be featured in this week's episode. Why? You'll just have to wait and see.

But for now, enjoy Johnny Reimar and his Party Orchestra...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Now on Facebook

Just when you thought listening to the podcast was too convenient, it's become even more... what's the word?... convenient-er.

We've set up a new page on Facebook where you can listen to the podcast, and discuss episodes with your fellow listeners.

So drop by, sign up, and enjoy the ride.

Monday, February 2, 2009

We're Back... and Better Than Ever

Episode Two of the Faroe Islands Podcast is complete and available for download.

In this installment, we dispell some popular myths about the Faroe Islands, take a walk in the mall, and try to pronounce Torshavn.

You can find us on iTunes, on the media player at the top of the page, or you can download the file directly:

As always, please let us know if you have any questions, comments, corrections, or clarifications.

Say My Name, Say My Name

In podcast #1, host Matthew Workman had some unique and exciting new ways to pronounce the Faroese capital Tórshavn.

In pronunciation, however, unique is not always good. So in podcast #2, we'll explore other, perhaps more proper ways to pronounce Tórshavn. And we'd like you to give it a try, too. Just look at the word "Tórshavn" and try to pronounce it. Then make an mp3 file of your best attempt and email it to .

Because there probably isn't a settled English pronounciation for the word, and there is no other podcast in English about the Faroes, whatever decision we make here may well influence how other news outlets around the world pronounce Tórshavn. So be a part of history, send in your recording today.

All Things Considered...

Podcast #2 features an interview with Michael Reveal, an American attorney who has lived in the Faroe Islands for 12 years. The following is an essay Michael wrote in 2006. It first appeared in Faroe Business Report...

All Things Considered
by Michael Paul Reveal

During a recent business trip to Norway, an acquaintance of mine from Oslo asked me in all seriousness whether we had any cars on the Faroes. Having unfortunately heard that line of questioning before, I took a deep breath, smiled and stated that we had a goodly number, all things considered. He seemed to accept my cheery, but obscure answer, for we quickly plunged on to more pressing matters. His question, however, continued to resonate with me.

As my plane descended toward the Faroes, I caught a glimpse out the window of the emerald green mountains of my adopted homeland and I took note that there was, indeed, nary a car in sight. Perhaps, I reflected, my friend had asked a fair question. The approach to the international airport in the Faroes is over some rather dramatic countryside and one's first impression of our island nation stands in stark contrast to that conjured up as one approaches other international airports surrounded as they are by kilometre upon kilometre of concrete and cars. Here there was nothing but crashing surf and towering black basalt, then the brightly coloured rooftops of a small village and then the runway. Be that as it may, I began to wonder if, all in all, we in the Faroes were not suffering from a rather severe image problem.

As my fellow passengers and I flowed into the baggage claim reception hall, nodding our greetings to the passport control officer who scanned the arriving passengers for any folks he did not know, I wondered just how many people really do know anything about us – our history, our language, our location on the globe, our hopes and dreams, our accomplishments, our trepidations, and, yes, even that we have 17,420 passenger cars at last count.

"All things considered", I had told my friend. "What on earth does that mean", I asked myself as I settled into the comfortable airport bus, one of some 207 buses in the Faroes, I was to later learn, for the short trip from the airport to the capital, Tórshavn, now made even shorter with the new 4.9 km undersea tunnel.

What I guess I meant by that somewhat flippant rejoinder was that statistics are just numbers unless they have a context and understanding that context is what is really important in the end. In the face of formidable challenges, the Faroese have managed to carve out a rather pleasant place in which to live and work and contribute to the well-being of the planet. If the Vision 2015 goals advanced recently by the Faroese Government come to pass, the Faroes will be an even nicer place to live and work, one of the nicest in fact, all things considered.

The Faroes began its fiery existence some 60 million years ago when the earth split open in what was to become the North Atlantic and poured lava out in rather amazing quantities. The recurrent ice ages rendered the Faroes into its current size and shape. Now the Faroes is considered a small place by some. Manhattan, on the other hand, is thought to be quite large by all accounts, yet the Faroes at 1399 sq. km. is in fact some 45 times bigger than Manhattan Island. We don't grow apples, so I guess New Yorkers are safe to continue calling their home the Big Apple, but we do have big sea cliffs, gargantuan in fact. But we are a modest folk, so we do not sound off much about the fact that we have the world's highest sea cliff, but we do. It's called Enniberg, for the record. Now in all humility, the Faroes is not as big as Wales, but it is bigger than Cape Cod and essentially the same size as Hong Kong. Hong Kong has a head start on skyscrapers, however, but soon we might even have a few high-rise office buildings of our own to complement the expansive green pastureland that some communities would dearly love to have in their city centres, all things considered.

The Faroese are descended from intrepid Vikings (at least the males, anyway) who coursed their way here from Western Norway and points south, picking up a bride or two along the way, which explains why the females of the Faroese population are more akin genetically to the Irish than the Vikings. For centuries the population held fairly steady at around 5,000 stalwart folks, give or take the fluctuations caused by Black Death and the relatively frequent mishap at sea. Today, the Faroes has a population of some 48,000 and, believe it or not, some 70,000 sheep.

Now I suppose in a certain context 70,000 sheep seems like quite a number, especially given the fact that Manhattan's Sheep Meadow hasn't seen a sheep since 1934 and Hong Kong has very, very few sheep per square metre. New Zealand, on the other hand, boasts some 47.2 million sheep, quite a number by anyone's calculations and certainly overwhelms our modest number. That splendid number equates to about 12 sheep per person in New Zealand, while in the Faroes we average only 1.5 sheep per person, which explains why we have to import lamb from New Zealand to keep pace with our deep love for a tasty leg of lamb on wintry nights.

Which brings me to another oft repeated, yet erroneous, notion about the Faroes: We are cold and dark and utterly storm tossed. Steaming lamb may indeed chase away the chill of winter, but in reality we are not that cold, we just don't warm up much. My friend in Oslo well knew that the Faroes rose out of the sea somewhere between Iceland and Norway and thus the Faroes by geographical association must, of course, be dripping in cold and snow. Not quite. Praise be to the Gulf Stream, or what is left of it by the time it gets to us. The Faroes sits in the middle of the North Atlantic Current and is thus protected from the many vicissitudes of winter that plague our neighbours. We average some 7°C [45°F] year round, with the temperature dipping to around 1°C in winter and soaring to some 13°C in the height of summer. We get 28 of what the weather folks call "snow days", enough, I suppose, to qualify as a place where winter sets foot, but it seems to tread very lightly, as what we do get is usually gone within a day or two, washed away by the misty weather commonly referred to as rain.

Now even the Faroese will readily admit that the Faroes gets a lot of rain, or at least what appears to be a lot of rain, all things considered. Here again, statistics are but numbers and taking a closer look should dispel some long-standing misconceptions about the Faroes. According to the rigorous number crunching of the weather bureau, the Faroes experiences some 1500 mm of precipitation annually. A sizeable amount one could argue, but it falls mostly as a light mist with an occasional good downpour thrown in now and again to remind us of what real rain is supposed to be like. Real rain, of course, is that pelting, large-globuled wetness that descends upon Bergen, Norway, for example. Rain there accumulates to some 2250 mm per year. The title of wettest spot on the earth, however, goes to the idyllic island of Kauai, Hawaii, a place plagued by real gully-washers. Some 3800 mm of rain and mist and fog accumulates in its mountainous interior. So do we get a lot of rain? Well not really, all things considered.

As a consequence of our 1500 mm of light mist or rain, call it what you will, we end up a bit short in the area of what the meteorologists call "sunshine hours". How many hours (not days) do you think the sun embraces the Faroes? Take a guess. Would you believe some 927 hours? Not many, considering that there are some 4380 hours of potential sunlight in a year (assuming a 12 hour day). Yet, we are ahead of Cold Bay, Alaska, situated in the heart of the Aleutian Islands. They sit under the clouds some 305 days a year and alas see the sun for only some 720 hours (more or less). I suppose they, like us, have few incidences of skin cancer. There are indeed untold advantages to living in the midst of the ocean under the clouds.

Now another major advantage is, of course, quick and ready access to fish. Fishing is by far the major industry in the Faroes, accounting for some 97% of the export. Most of the total catch, some 261,310,000 tonnes (live weight) per year, is caught in Faroese territorial waters, although the Faroese fishing fleet ranges worldwide. According to data prepared by the governmental agency, Statistics Faroe Islands, all those tonnes of fish contribute to an export value of some DKK3,668 million (less a small fraction for exported ships). We import some DKK3,738 million in goods, so our trade balance is a little skewed, but not outrageously so, all things considered, especially compared to some other nations.

Most of our export heads to the European Union. The United Kingdom absorbs some 78% and Denmark some 19%, while Spain continues its love affair with our salted fish, savouring some 10% of our export.

On the other hand, we import most of what we want from Denmark. A quirk of history keeps 33% of our import flowing in via Denmark, while another 18% comes from Norway. A mere 4% comes from Iceland, an amount that will assuredly rise now that the new free trade agreement has been signed between Iceland and the Faroes.

The UK accounts for only 5% of our import, which probably represents our continuing and deep-seated love affair with chocolate. The troops that came here from the UK during the second world war left more than just an airport. They left us with an abiding desire for things swathed in chocolate. Much to the delight of the candy sellers in the Faroes, and much to the consternation of the dentists and the Ministry of Health, who diligently promote healthy eating habits in the face of the delightful vistas of colourfully wrapped caramels abounding at Christmas time and just before Lent. All in all, 29% of our import is destined for our homes and our stomachs, or as the statistical office calls it "goods for household consumption". We do love that New Zealand lamb, followed by a flavourful bite of chocolate and a savoury cup of coffee. Ah, paradise, enow.

I suppose the Faroes is indeed a paradise, all things considered. We have a relatively stable economy. We earn money by feeding others, which is not such a bad calling. We ourselves eat well. Our homes are big and well-furnished. We send a considerable amount of money overseas to help in disaster relief. We are extremely sports-minded and have a passable football team able to strike fear and trembling in the hearts of many a foreign spectator cheering on the likes of Scotland and, yes, even France. Not bad for a bunch of part-timers. Not all of our time is spent cheering on our sports teams, however, as we support various amateur and professional theatres, have a national symphony orchestra, numerous choirs, excellent museums and a host of rather talented artists and musicians. We drive cars, of course, even luxury BMWs and sturdy SUVs, and read lots and lots and lots of books.

In fact, we publish some 149 (2004) books a year, including some 67 translations of other works. We even have our own Faroese editions of Harry Potter, which flow hot off the presses just after the English releases. Now to some, 149 may not seem a substantial number of books to get published every year. But, here again, context is everything. The publishers in the United States crank out 175,000 (2003) titles per year and those in the United Kingdom do an admirable job of putting out 125,000. Yet when one considers books per capita, the Faroese shine. The US publishes around 0.5 books per 1000 folks, the UK about 2 books per 1000 and the Faroes some 3 books per 1000. An admirable number by anyone's calculations, all things considered.

We do not spend, however, all of our time reading, it would seem. Our fertility rate is higher than any other Nordic country at 2.522 (2003) and we have fewer divorces as well. We have hardly anyone receiving social services in comparison to Sweden, for example, which has some 286.2 people per 1000 receiving assistance. We have infinitely more hospital beds available to us per capita than the other Nordic countries, although we could use a few more dentists and doctors. Folks with those credentials are invited to apply forthwith to the Ministry of Health.

Our inflation rate is low at 2.4% (1998 = 100.0 CPI). Unemployment hovers around 4% with industry begging for even more workers. Even though we have had our ups and downs lately regarding immigration policy, we still welcome more people to our shores on average than any other Nordic country (2003).

Now given the fact that most of our export comes from the fishing industry, one could well reason that this industry would be paying the greatest wages. Not so. The fishing and fish processing industry accounts for only 19.6% of the total wages paid out in 2004. Who pays the most? Reasonable question. Would you believe the government? Yes, the government (local and national) accounts for 34% of all wages paid, then comes the fishing industry, followed by the service industry with 10% with the construction industry keeping pace at 6.5%.

The average wage in 2004 was DKK210,000 for men and DKK140,000 for women [€28,000; €18,763]. This inequity is a problem that is well appreciated by the government and leaders of thought in the Faroes and steps are underway to address it. Some 85 individuals had incomes of more than a million DKK [€134,000] and altogether the Faroese had taxable income of DKK6,891 million [€923,465,772]. Not an outrageous sum, but one must keep in mind that all that money was earned by only 42,567 taxpayers (2003).

Now the Faroes is not known for its high crime rate and that is reflected in the low expenditure for what statisticians call "public order and safety". What the Faroese do enjoy is a social welfare system that generally meets the needs of most all the citizenry, which explains the large budget for "social protection" that equates to DKK1,865 million [€249,960,290] (2003) out of a total budget of DKK5,328 million (2003).

So what does the future hold? More of the same, no doubt, all things considered. The doldrums that have plagued the fishing and aquaculture industries is receding. Banks are reporting record profits and an enterprising young Faroese has just unveiled a building project in Tórshavn of mega-proportions, featuring high-rise condos, a shopping mall, office buildings and even a covered football pitch.

All this fits well with the government's Vision 2015 development plan, designed to make the Faroes one of the best places to live and work in the world by 2015. All things considered, we are a long way toward that goal already.