There’s a CD sitting in one of the piles around the house. I listened again. It was released in 1994 and it was a collection of folk songs from the far north (Iceland, Norway, Canada, etc) all about the sea, set to electronic, slightly classical or ambient music. Aptly, it was called Chansons des Mers Froides (or, Songs from Frozen Seas).

The standout track for me has always been one featuring Bjork. I can take or leave her, but on this she really expresses that Icelandic sense of isolated calm. The track is Vísur Vatnsenda-Rósu.

Hector Zazou – Visur Vatnsenda-Rosu (Ft. Bjork)

I researched it a bit more. Translated from the Icelandic, the title doesn’t mean a lot – a poem or song about Rosa who came from a place called Vatnsenda (or Watersend). It’s a setting to music of a poem by an Icelandic poet called Rósa Guðmundsdóttir who lived from 1795 – 1855.  It seems to be a paean to unrequited love, or at least love that can not be publically acknowledged.

Here are some of the words:

Augun mín og Augun þín    My eye and your eye,
og þá fögru steina    Oh those beautiful stones
mitt er þitt og þitt er mitt,    Mine is yours and yours mine,
þú veizt, hvað eg meina.    You know what I mean.

Langt er síðan sá eg hann,     Long is since I saw him,
sannlega fríður var hann,     Truly fair he was,
allt, sem prýða mátti einn mann,    All that may adorn one man,
mest af lýðum bar hann.     Most of the people carried him.

þig ég trega manna mest    You I long for most of all
Mædda af tára flóði    Heavy with the flood of tears
Ó að við hefðum aldrei sést    Oh that we had never seen
elsku vinurinn góði    Dear beloved friend

Zazou was an interesting chap. A tad geeky and a bit of a dabbler in world music. But he was born in Algeria to French parents and so had more first hand experience of culture clash than I credited him. As he once said, “If music cannot change the world, what use does it have?”  — Hector Zazou (1948-2008)