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VARNA GL: “I am connecting nature’s dramatic behaviors with my emotional being”

VARNA GL, a talented artist rooted in her ancestral heritage, draws inspiration from the traditional East Greenlandic drum dance, a cherished tradition passed down through generations. She excels in various disciplines, including singing, songwriting, composition, acting, social research, and counseling.

Photo credit: Varna GL – Official

As the artistic director of Qilaat, a cultural organization dedicated to promoting and preserving drum dancing, VARNA GL revitalizes this timeless heritage, ensuring its legacy continues to captivate modern audiences.

VARNA GL’s unique sound is a testament to the deep influence of her family elders and their invaluable knowledge of the East Greenlandic drum dance. Through a multidisciplinary approach, she skillfully combines traditional material and spiritual practices, seamlessly blending her diverse experiences as a singer-songwriter, composer, actor, social researcher, and counselor.

Today, VARNA GL proudly unveils her highly anticipated debut album, PILARNGAR. This project represents a cultural awakening, shining a spotlight on the spiritual power embedded in Greenlandic Inuit tradition – a heritage that deeply resonates within VARNA GL’s ancestral roots.

Recently, EG had the pleasure of catching up with VARNA GL, delving into her latest album and exploring the exciting projects that lie ahead.

EG: Hi VARNA! Welcome to Electronic Groove. It’s a pleasure to have you here with us. How have you been? Where are you right now?

VARNA GL: Good! Thanks. I am currently back in Reykjavik, Iceland. I have recently been in Greenland. Being home, especially, was necessary.

EG: First of all, congratulations on the release of your debut studio album, ‘PILARNGAR’! You must be very excited to finally share this one! What has the initial reception been like so far?

VARNA GL: Thank you. I am very excited. Especially for my fellow Inuit people to hear this, but I am excited to see what the broader audience’s reflections on these sounds of poetry, which might be a bit unfamiliar, might be.

I have had a very positive reception so far, which I appreciate very much.

EG: So, what can we expect to find on ‘PILARNGAR’? Is there a thread or concept running through the record? What is the meaning of ‘PILARNGAR’?

VARNA GL: Each song is its own, with its own story. The process of creating this was very much improvisation, and a mix of deep inner listening, sound poetry, and storytelling. The thread I afterward can trace in the album is Greenland, culture, heritage, and empowerment, through sounds that I carry as a person from the Arctic.

Pilarngar is a deep storm, that slides down from the inland ice and hits the coast, usually at very high speed. It can be very dramatic. In Pilarngar I am connecting nature’s dramatic behaviors with my emotional being. I identify with the storm, through my emotional being. That allows me to release the energy through the song. The kabatic storm, from the inland ice, often comes with warnings for people to stay inside. So if you’re not following that, you need to be very brave. Which is equivalent to many aspects of my life. Where the road has not always been given.

EG: And ‘PILARNGAR’ comes on the back of your two recent singles, ‘QAARDULU’ and ‘IDDORARPI’. Why did you decide to go with these as the lead singles?

VARNA GL: The music in the album is very dynamic, and I wanted to present, some of that diversity. It was just a feeling and it felt right. Iddorarpi, was current to where I am now, based in Iceland. So the “feel” of the song is happening on a daily basis, therefore very relevant to me to start out with.

Qaardulu, is in its dynamic, very different, which I felt would be a good suitable journey, to go through, cause it mirrors the different stages we pass in life.

“The process of creating this was very much improvisation, and a mix of deep inner listening, sound poetry, and storytelling”

EG: How does one seek to translate the notion of imperialism into music? In which way do you feel you have accomplished that

VARNA GL: To actually use the Estgreenlandic dialect is a privilege that I haven’t had, to sing our own traditional songs, is a rare occasion and a privilege that is not common in Greenland at all, because of the imperialist system. We are taught culture, is not “important” if you wanna become somebody, you should assimilate the “foreign/western ways” educational systems, which means focussing on another language than our own. By creating an album in my native tongue, with a rare dialect, and being inspired by my heritage, I am showing that we can communicate broadly and still be true to ourselves.

EG: What aspects of the Inuit tradition are currently endangered? How have these influenced the person you’ve become?

VARNA GL: Many of our cultural practices are. It differs from region to region. In some it’s the language, other places it’s the song and dance, ways of sewing, preparing the skin, building qajaqs, the food that we eat, etc.

My focus is on persevering in the drum dancing tradition, but my overall is to encourage everyone, that are practicing parts of our culture, to keep going. I wish we together could get cultural practices embedded in the institutional and educational systems.

EG: You’re also the artistic and managing director of the cultural organization ‘Qilaat’, committed to promoting, preserving, and developing the heritage of drum dancing. What are some of Qilaat’s current endeavors?

VARNA GL: ‘Qilaat’s recent endeavors have been to document heritage songs, to interview current drumdancers and the next work is to produce additional material, to share knowledge about the drumdancing tradition. The current and main struggle is to get funding to carry on the work.

EG: Right now, social media seems to be shaping careers in a way that the music, or the actual content can’t…What is your relationship with social media like? How do you navigate these murky waters?

VARNA GL: I do not spend so much time on social media. I would love to be better at it, but my focus is to spend time on reflecting and learning more about our drumming practice. I am lucky to have very good team, behind me, that are good at what I can´t.

“My focus is on persevering in the drum dancing tradition”

EG: What’s next for VARNA GL? Where can your fans catch you next? What new milestones are you looking forward to in 2023

VARNA GL: Currently new works are in process. But I can’t promise anything for certain, about when that will be finished. My milestone for 2023 is definitely the release! I wish to let that marinate a while.

EG: Thank you for your time! We’re excited to see what’s in store for you. Take care!

VARNA GL: Thank you so much for your interesting questions.

VARNA GL’s ‘PILARNGAR’  is now available via marvaða. Stream and download here.

VARNA GL: Soundcloud  | Spotify  | Instagram

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