‘YOU’VE been really lucky to get two nice days. Usually that’s about it for the summer.”

Escaping this sub-aquatic Scottish July only to hear this at the other end might seem questionable, but at least I didn’t venture far to hear it.

The Faroe Islands, north-west of Shetland, are just a 90-minute flight from Edinburgh.

I was there to attend the first edition of Skrapt Festival, a small, experimental event in the impossibly picturesque capital, Torshavn.

I was also there to try to recreate a certain delicious feeling of tranquil Nordic isolation that I last experienced in Greenland several years ago.

I succeeded, despite the trip featuring a less than tranquil sting in the tail.

Skrapt ran on a Friday and Saturday in mid-July, with the main lineup playing on one stage in what is normally a small car park on Tórsgøta, a long street leading down to the town’s marina.

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A couple of nearby bars hosted small side-events and on Sunday there was a highly enjoyable post-festival pool party during which DJs played ambient music as artists and attendees mingled in three pools, a hot tub and saunas.

It was undoubtedly the smallest music festival I have attended, with crowds at the main stage only occasionally tipping into three figures. This was cheerfully acknowledged by the organisers, who have clearly planned for the festival to start small and grow.

Those who were at Skrapt were given a highly impressive showcase of the variety and quality of experimental music being produced just now on an 18-island archipelago (the Faroes are a self-governing part of the Kingdom of Denmark) with a population of just 54,000.

A little over half the bill was comprised of Faroese artists, with four Icelandic acts and one each from the UK and Denmark.

The powerful singing and confessional lyrics of the very first act, Marianna Winter, stuck in my mind, and I ran into her just before leaving town when I looked in at the TUTL record store, where she works her day job.
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Friendly and eager to chat, she filled me in on the shop’s function – it is a storefront for a label of the same name that has released hundreds if not thousands of records by Faroese artists.

Two excellent but very different local hip-hop acts, Ghost Notes and Ayphin, lit up the middle section of Friday’s bill before the Brighton DJ/producer La Leif’s set, which started slowly but ended up creating the first delirious mass-dancing moment of the weekend.

Another highlight was a mesmerising live show from Lasse Jæger, aka Supervisjón, a Danish producer living in the Faroes, whose quickfire footwork/juke is blended with Faroese-language poems by his wife, Lív Maria Róadóttir Jæger, about everyday issues such a getting a bank loan and moving house.

“I had a blast playing my music at this festival,” Jæger told me. “I think Skrapt is an important part of a growing scene for what I like to call ‘genre-fluid’ music. The festival has a great and bold mission: to present music that people didn’t know they’d love. It’s an experiment in itself, doing this type of festival in a minuscule country and building an audience.”

“Genre-fluidity” was much in evidence again on day two of the festival. There was languorous space-rock from the local three-piece Emp, two Icelandic singers with copious star quality in Gugusar and Cell7, and the frenzied hardcore punk whirlwind of Joe & The Shitboys.

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Fríði Djurhuus, the charismatic, peroxide-haired frontman of the latter band, doubled up as the festival’s compère between acts all weekend, his frequently hilarious contributions something to look forward to just as much as the music.

After the festival, Djurhuus, who also works for the TUTL record label and store, expanded on the pronounced diversity to be found on the Faroese music scene: “My band plays punk, and when we’re touring internationally we always get paired with other punk bands, but in the Faroes that sort of lineup doesn’t make sense. You already have a punk band, why do you need a second one? How about some R&B or jazz?”

Away from the festival, the Faroes gave me all the enchanting wildlife, scenery, food and drink I could have asked for, and on the Sunday I took a ferry to a nearby island and village called Nólsoy to take in yet more of all of the above.

If things were in danger of becoming too unremittingly idyllic, the journey back to Torshavn brought something darker into the mix.

As we approached the capital I saw what looked like a party in progress in a cove just to the south of the town centre. From our angle and distance we were unable to see that the water on the beach was blood-red, and It wasn’t until later that we realised we’d been watching the grindadráp, or whale hunt.

This particular grindadráp, during which around 80 pilot whales were corralled on to the beach and slaughtered, made international headlines due to having been carried out right in front of a British cruise ship.

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“It’s complicated,” Sunneva Eysturstein, one of the festival’s organisers, told me when I asked how the practice – which was first officially recorded in 1584 but dates back much further – is viewed.

“I definitely understand people being against it … there are pros and cons. The meat is distributed to people who need it, and the whales are killed very quickly if it is done properly. We saw with Covid-19 that everything we think we can rely on can just stop, so it is valuable for us to continue to know how to do this to provide ourselves with food.

I don’t think it should be banned, but the negative attention it brings has made us more mindful about mistakes.”

I didn;t come away from the discussion convinced that the grindadráp should still be happening, but the arguments put forward in its defence – which also include the point that globally accepted livestock farming practices are far more cruel – are not without merit.

The last Faroese word on the subject had to be left to Djurhuus, a vegan whose band have a song entitled If You Believe In Eating Meat Start With Your Dog.

“Tradition or culture should never be used to justify cruelty,” he said, “but that being said, pilot whales aren’t endangered, and they live their whole lives outside of confinement, whereas industrial farming is absolutely horrible from start to finish. I wish my people didn’t kill the whales, but if they stop it they will not replace whale meat with vegetables. They will replace it with more factory-farmed meat.”