The Icelandic singer-songwriter reveals all about the English language version of an album that has topped charts for 73 weeks
Having started her career at just 15 with the electronic band Gus Gus, Icelandic singer-songwriter Hafdís Huld has gone on to be one of her country’s most popular musicians. After Gus Gus came a stint with the UK-based outfit FC Kahuna. Then, in 2016, she launched her solo career with debut album Dirty Paper Cup and has followed that Icelandic Music Awards-winning effort with seven further albums. Much of her music is created in the farmhouse studio where she works with husband and collaborator Alisdair Wright.
Latest release Lullabies is an English language album that combines a mixture of classic lullabies, traditional Icelandic folk songs and original materials. Originally recorded in her native language and released back in 2012, it is the most-streamed album in Icelandic music history and has spent 73 weeks at the top of the charts since 2020. Though equally soothing in either language, it’s this new version that we were keen to learn all about…
TWINKLE TWINKLE LITLLE STAR
My Icelandic translation of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is the version Icelandic children know. The song hadn´t been released in Icelandic until my version was released 10 years ago, but has since become very popular with Icelandic children and parents. I am so used to singing this song in Icelandic and recording it in English made me think back to when my daughter was two-years-old, as this was the first song she learned to sing in English. They really do grow up too fast.
LULLABY OF LIGHTS
This song is about having the northern lights outside your window at bedtime. We live outside of the city so there is no light pollution around which makes it the perfect conditions for the northern lights to put on a beautiful show. My children think it is a completely normal thing to have the sky lit up green with northern lights at bedtime, and I was explaining to them the other day that most people have never even seen the northern lights. The melody is originally from Hungary, but it has been used as an Icelandic children’s song for a long time and often people here are surprised to hear it is not actually Icelandic.
SLEEP MY DARLING
The melody is an old Icelandic folksong and probably Iceland’s best-known lullaby. The Icelandic lyrics are from a play released in 1912 based on the life of Iceland’s most famous outlaw Fjalla-Eyvindur who was on the run for years with his wife Halla. In the play, Halla sings the lullaby to their baby before throwing it into a waterfall so they don´t get caught. This is not mentioned in the actual lyrics and the song has lived on as a popular lullaby. The old folk melody is beautiful but has a dark undertone. I think the English lyrics are a bit lighter than the ones we sing to it here in Iceland.
LAND OF DREAMS
The Icelandic version has been one of the most popular songs in Iceland for over three years. So popular in fact that it has now been excluded from the singles chart along with some of my other lullabies as they were taking up too many slots on the Top 20 radio show every week. It is originally from a play by Norwegian playwright Thorbjorn Egner from 1953. A mouse is trapped in a tree and sings this lullaby to a fox that wants to eat it. The fox falls asleep, and the mouse gets away.
SING YOU TO SLEEP
This is a very old Icelandic folk song. Our recording is one of only two recorded versions of the song and has re-introduced this beautiful lullaby to a new generation of parents and children. It talks about all the baby animals that have to fall asleep by themselves and then, in the final verse, how the children fall asleep next to Daddy. There are so many lullabies that mention mothers, so it was nice to find such an old one talking about the dad comforting his children at bedtime.
MY LITTLE LIGHT
We wrote My Little Light for our daughter Arabella. My mum has always called me her light and when I was pregnant with Arabella I found myself calling her that. And she really is! This song is popular in Icelandic naming ceremonies and christenings as many parents connect with the lyrics.
YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE
You Are My Sunshine is one of those songs that has become a lullaby because many parents sing it to their children at bedtime. We decided to make a ukulele version as we felt it really suits the feel of the song.
ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT
A song we wrote about getting your little one to close their eyes and relax after a busy day, and the magical things they can dream about until the morning. It is a gentle and dreamy lyric and melody and I find that it creates the perfect atmosphere when I lie next to my little one and softly stoke his back until he drifts off to sleep.
Brahms Lullaby is probably the most recognised lullaby in the world, with so many versions of the song in many languages. Surprisingly I couldn´t find a recording of it in Icelandic when I was making the original album, so I wrote lyrics to the song that have since been performed and recorded by other Icelandic artists. Our version is acoustic and a bit folksy.
UNDER A BLUE SKY
The melody for Under A Blue Sky is actually an Irish folk song, it was used in an Icelandic play in 1970 and most people just assume it is an Icelandic lullaby. I wrote the English lyrics about all the things we can do together tomorrow after a long evening of trying to convince my kids to go to sleep.
Sleep Now is about the struggle of convincing your kids it is bedtime when the sun is shining and birds are singing outside. Here in Iceland, we have 24-hour daylight in the summer and it is very confusing to little ones, seems to surprise them every year. Blackout curtains help and I have been told so does this lullaby.
This is not really a lullaby; it is an Icelandic folk song that many parents sing at bedtime. The winters here are very long and cold and the song is a reminder to feed the little birds to help them survive when everything is covered in snow. It is a sweet little song that all Icelandic children know.
Bedtime is about that moment when you are reflecting on the day’s adventures. My children always seem to have so much to say at bedtime that can´t possibly wait till the morning. Questions that need to be answered in order for them to drift off to sleep peacefully.
This is an old Icelandic song; the original poem is from 1925. It is well known as a sing-a-long song here in Iceland, but our laid-back acoustic version has become a popular lullaby. The lyrics are about how your whole world changes when you become a parent. How all your experiences until then suddenly seem less important than they did before.
INTO THE EVENING
An old Icelandic folk song that I think most parents here have sung to their children at some point. The English lyrics are pretty close to the original, about looking for little lambs that got lost on the mountain.