FUNI – an old Icelandic word meaning flame or fire – are Bára Grímsdóttir and Chris Foster, consummate performers of the traditional songs of Iceland and England. They started working together in 2001, breathing new life into great songs that have been hidden for too long in old recordings, little known books and manuscripts. They also add new songs to the tradition.
Bára and Chris have toured widely in mainland Europe, as well as throughout Iceland and Britain. They have also performed in China and made five visits to the USA, performing and teaching at festivals, concerts, summer schools and appearing on radio and TV. In 2009 they started the first degree level course on Icelandic traditional music at the Icelandic Academy of the Arts.
Bára Grímsdóttir is simply one of Iceland’s best traditional singers. She is also widely respected in Iceland as a composer, especially of vocal music. She started life surrounded by the folk songs of her parents and grandparents on the family farm Grímstunga in the north of Iceland. Bára has a special interest in the old rímur and kvæðalög styles of song, but she also sings in other traditional styles, both secular and religious. In her role as composer and arranger, Bára continues to draw on the well of traditional Icelandic music, while as a performer, she invests the traditional songs that she performs with a natural authority born from having been surrounded by them from birth.
Chris Foster grew up in Somerset in the south west of England. A master of his trade, he was recently described as “one of the finest singers and most thoughtful inventive guitar accompanists of English folk songs, meriting legend status.” Over the past 40 years, he has toured throughout the UK, Europe, Canada and the USA. He has recorded six solo albums as well as working on many collaborative projects. On stage, his fine musicianship and powerful singing is underpinned by an urbane wit and engaging enthusiasm, which draws his audiences into the ancient world of storytelling through song.
Their new album 'FLÚR' was released on 2nd April 2013 and has been gathering very positive responses on radio and in the press. The songs on the album are drawn from the kvæðalag, tvísöngur and hymn singing traditions of Europe’s most remote nation. Despite Iceland’s generally very high musical profile, its unique and varied folk song heritage has, sadly, remained largely unheard and unknown by today’s folk and world music audiences. The fifteen songs on FLÚR represent a small but significant step towards remedying this state of affairs.
In the past, these songs were usually performed unaccompanied. Now, Bára Chris add accompaniments using the traditional Icelandic langspil along with kantele, guitar and hammer dulcimer. They are also joined on FLÚR by Andri Eyvindsson, saxophone and vocals; Birgir Bragasson, double bass; Hafsteinn Þórólfsson, vocals and Lárus Grímsson, clarinet.
The disc comes in a beautifully designed digi-pack, which includes a 32 page illustrated booklet with introductory notes and full song texts in both Icelandic and English.
The album is available as a download at gogoyoko/album/FLUR or as physical CD or download from funi.bandcamp.com or of course from Smekkleysa and other good record stores in Iceland.
Bára and Chris are very experienced performers and workshop leaders.
They are happy to offer a variety of performance and workshop possibilities:
full length concerts – including dramatic displays of old and new photographs (programmes can be tailored to the venue’s particular interests)
workshops on group / choir singing, Bára and Chris’ Icelandic Harmony Singing Workshops have been a big hit with participants of all ages at festivals and summer schools in the UK and USA.
instrumental workshops on guitar, langspil and Íslensk fiðla
workshops on arranging songs for both group singing and instrumental accompaniment
workshops on narrative song styles from the British and Icelandic traditions, ballads, rímur & vikivaki
shared, themed & song swap sessions with singers from other traditions
Bára and Chris are always pleased to respond to new ideas from promoters and organisers.
Singly, each singer is a great presenter of the music of a native island, but as a duo with great skill and musicality, they transform the music of their islands into universals.
review of 'FUNI' concert for the Folk Society of Greater
Bára Grímsdóttir and Chris Foster, quite frankly were something else! Their work is an authoritative mixture of Icelandic and English traditional singing and music… and it's as good as it gets! “They are just wonderful!”
Keith Kendrick, reviewing Funi in concert, England. September 2008
“I would be happy to speak with any venue or promoter in support of hiring Funi”
Chris Foster and Bára Grímsdóttir were stellar members of our teaching and performing faculty in the summer of 2004, 2005 and 2008. The duo's performances both on festival stages and in workshops were top-notch and well-received. I would be happy to speak with any venue or promoter in support of hiring Chris and Bára.
Walt Michael, Executive Director Common Ground on the Hill, Maryland, USA
It's not ever day that an unfamiliar, yet readily accessible new tradition comes along, so check this out.
Nick Beale reviewing the FUNI CD in fROOTS magazine
“Funi puts the Icelandic folk music culture on the map of world music.”
Funi is a magnificent album, not only because of the music, but also because of the excellent lyrics and introductions to the songs in a folding digipak and 36 page booklet filled abundantly with old photographs. Funi is not only a feast for the eye, but also for the ears…. the CD remains fascinating from beginning to end.
Marius Roeting, New Folk Sounds magazine, Netherlands