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HT BIOGRAPHY 1 part
HORDUR TORFA the artist.
Hordur Torfa is the first and, in a way, the only icelandic troubadour. As a musician, he has been admired and respected since he released his first LP back in 1970, but, after he 'outed' himself in a famous magazine-interview, he has been hated and scornedby the petty moralists and pedantic hypocrites of all classes, which seem to thrive equally well in the cold Icelandic climate as they do anywhere else inthe world. The public reaction to this interview was so severe, that Hordur was forced to leave the country and live in exile for the next fifteen years. And so, Hordur is not only the first icelandic troubadour and the country's first prominent homosexual to raise his voice and claim the natural right of everyhuman being - to be what he is and live his life accordingly - he is also the first Icelander ever to be exiled for any reason other than violent crime or 'subversive politics'.
This, however, was not a goal he had aimed at or even considered, when he gave the interview. The fact that he had to leave the country tells us more about his fellow countrymen than it does about him. But, in spite of his exile, in spite of his living in Copenhagen for a period of fifteen years, he had by no means given up on hisfellow Icelanders, nor had he surrendered to their demands. He was always determined to return someday and together with a small, but growing group of dedicated people, he worked hard at changing the public opinion and attidude towards homosexuals in his native country. He was the chief initiator of the Samtok '78, an organisation whose main purpose was, and still is, to fightfor the rights of gays. This fight has been successful. Just how successful it has really been can perhaps best be demonstrated by the fact that today, twent yyears after that notorious interview, Hordur Torfa is again best known for what he became famous for in the first place: his music.
He started out as just another guy, plucking at the strings of an old guitar, making up melodies to go with other people's lyrics. People started hearing him and about him here and there as early as the mid-sixties. In 1967, however, he enrolled as a student in the National Theatre's Drama school. As the students had to commit themselves not to appear on any stage outside the school, it wasn't until 1970 that Hordur could launch his career as an artist. But then he did just that, and with a vengeance. His first album, popularly known as the Blue album, was released that same year, and became an instant success. On this first album, Hordur was just as unconventional as he has been ever since. Except for backing vocals in a few songs, it was just Hordur himself, his voice accompanied by the gentle strings of his guitar. It doesn't sound very revolutionary, but, in those days, icelandic popular music consisted only of either Beatles/Stones-sound-alikes orfolk-music. Thousands upon thousands of Hördur's album were sold, and it has long been regarded as one of the very few classical gems in the history oficelandic popular music. Hordur's second album, like the first, contained his melodies to other people's lyrics. After that, the hitherto silent poet within him started to demand the same attention and status as the composer. Since then, Hordur has recorded 14 albums of original music. More often than not,Hordur has appeared alone and unaided on these records, but he has been known to give a few people a break now and then, and let them accompany him and his guitar with their various instruments. These exceptions, however, do in no way diminish his accomplishment or change his status as Iceland's first and best troubadour.
In the last fewyears, quite a few people have been tempted to call themselves troubadours,and, what's worse, they have yielded to that temptation. In fact, they have been so many, and, to say the least, so variously talented, that the nestor of Icelandic troubadours has become loth to appear under that description and prefers to call himself a singing poet. While most of the other so-called troubadours go from pub to pub, maltreating Donovan and Dylan and raping Baezto audiences in an advanced state of alcoholic deafness, Hordur prefers somewhere nice and quiet, where he can sing his songs with his customary sincerity and abandon to a sober and listening audience. The audience would be missing a lot though, if they would settle for listening only. Hordur is an allround performer, and Hordur the actor is never far away when Hordur, the singer, is on the stage. It can be difficult at times, to decide whether one is attending a concert or a cabaret, a cabaret or a musical, a musical or a play.The fact that Hordur, the poet, is always present as well, adds further to the tension which is always to be felt between the actor and the singer. And so, ifit weren't for the fourth guy, Hordur, the director, who usually butts in just as things start to get a little rough up there on the stage, we'd probably bein trouble. In spite of his living in Denmark for fifteen years, Hordur has directed about 50 plays and shows all around the country, with various drama-clubs and amateur art societies. He came home every autumn, threw his annual concert in Reykjavik in the first week of september, spent a few weeks somewhere or other out there in the great wilds where people fish and grow potatoes and babies, and didn't disappear again until some of them had performed some play or another for the rest of them. He even wrote some of these plays himself, and rewrote a number of others. In addition to all this, Hordur was the first icelandic popular musician to go touring around the country, bringing his music to the people living in the small fishing villages and other rural communities, who were not used to, but quite happy to welcome visitors from the"big city" - and many musicians have followed his good example since.He has thrown many concerts abroad, mostly in Scandinavia, he is engaged in the fight against AIDS and for it's victims, and he's appeared at innumerable charity concerts.
And then - afterfighting for human - and civil - rights on behalf of the gay community in Iceland for twenty years, after fifteen years in exile in Denmark, after 14 albums, countless concerts in Iceland and abroad, after participating invarious ways in a number of plays, films, radio and television programs - after all this, it finally happened. Hordur was awarded his first ever prize in his career, a career covering more than a quarter of a century. Of course, this happened abroad. In Stockholm, on june 16th, 1995, TUPILAK - a culturalorganisation of the gay community in Scandinavia- honoured him with the Thorshammer-award with great ceremony. This is a human-rights prize, annually awarded to someone for outstanding dedication to and relentless fight for the cause of human rights for gays. Last december, Samtok '78, the icelandicgay-organisation which Hordur initiated some 18 years ago, followed suit and honoured him - and the first chairman of the organisation - with the Liberty-award for his part in the fight for equal rights for gay people in Iceland. As a musician, Hordur still enjoys the same respect as before. And in the 21 years since Hordur gave his interview, things have certainly changed for the better as regards the public attitude towards gays. Their legal status has improved, too. There is still a long way to go, though, and those who hate,fear and scorn gays are still far too numerous in Iceland as well as in most other countries. Hordur knows this as well as - or perhaps better than - anyone else, and has by no means given up the fight. He keeps on singing, keeps on showing us the way, pointing out his own faults as well as ours, laughing at us- but mostly with us - and generally telling us what is what. He is not a moralist though, and self-righteousness has never been one of his faults.
He's got nothing to hide, but a lot to say, and he does just that, regardless of the consequences it can have for him as a private person. "If I had let it be, if I had bought myself a white shirt and a tie and melted away without a word or a whimper, I would have been betraying myself," said Hördur, when he was asked if he had never regretted his coming out these twenty odd years ago. So,what we have here, is not someone I - or anyone else for that matter can describe in a few words on a home page. But, if there is one single thing I canpositively state about a man as active, complex and multitalented as HordurTorfa is, it's this: He never tries to appear to be anything else than he is. Except on stage, of course, where he naturally tries to appear as someone else...Oh, well, maybe that single thing I can positively claim about the guy doesn't exist after all. But then, is there a single thing about anyone or anything we can positively state? Descartes maintaines that there is, and so does a number of philosophers, but others have been known to deny it. I mean,if...oh, what the hell.
Aevar Orn Josepsson
Mosfellsbæ January 1996
Hörður Torfa www.hordurtorfa.com
1966-70 | Graduated as Actor from The National Theatre of Iceland, School of Acting.
1977 | Morðsaga / Actor and Assistant Director
1973 | Paragraph 65 / Actor
1970 – 1990 | Author of many radioprograms
1998-06 | Conductor of the weekly radio program“The Song Sowers” on RÚV 1 Icelandic main radio station
1970-73 | Actor in the National Theatre of Iceland
Acted in many different productions.
1971-01 | Theatre Director
Directed 47 different productions for both amateur and professional theatre. Wrote the script for 5 plays and the soundtrack for 10 theater´s plays.
1970- | Considered to be Icelands first Troubadour. Performed in countless solo concerts in Iceland and elsewhere and has composed and written and produced 24 albums.
2006 | Book of Songs
1995 | YRK Poems´ collection
Human Rights Activist:
1975. Steps forwards as the first Gay man in Iceland and starts his Human rights activism
1978| Founder of the Icelandic Gay Organization Samtökin 78.
2008/09. Leader of the social movement that emerged in Iceland during the autumn of 2008. Consequently Hörður has been invited to join different meetings, conferences, manifestations, lectures and talks on the topic of Human Rights in Sweden, Spain, Mexico, Venezuela, Italy, Slovakia and Czech republic.
2008| Asylum Seeker Activist. Worked successfully for the recognition of Paul Ramses´ right to live in Iceland.
2010 | Siðmennt Award, Icelandic Humanists
For outstanding contribution in the human right field
2009 | The Tupilak, Swedish Gay Organization
For outstanding contribution in the gay right field
2008 | Man of the Year, Rás 2 Icelandic Radio Broadcast
For outstanding contribution in the human right field
2008 | Community Prize, Fréttablaðsins Newspaper
For his work in the fight against prejudice
2005 | Nordic Songwriter Union
For his outstanding career
2003 | Icelandic Social Democratic Party
For his courage, bravery and honesty in human right fight
1998 | Golden Needle, Icelandic Gay Organization Samtökin 78
For his life achievement
1995 | Freedom Prize, Icelandic Gay Organization Samtökin 78
For his courage, bravery and honesty in human right fight
1995 | Tupilak, Swedish Gay Organization
For his pioneer work and bravery