There is something harmonious about great music being played en plein air in the very surroundings which inspired some of the tunes in the first place. When the legendary rock band Sumé made its first tour in Greenland back in 1974, they purposely played on natural stages. Snow-covered mountain tops, sloping hills recently painted with autumn hues and amplified rhythms somehow equalize and the whole valley comes alive.
Qooqqut Festival is a music festival by title, but it is also a celebration of family, togetherness, being outdoors, and simply slowing down to appreciate the good things in life.
Find out more about Greenlandic music at music.greenland.com.
Heading down to Atlantic Harbour on Friday evening to board the ferry was reminiscent of that first summer at sleepover camp.
ALL ABOARD THE FLOATING HOTEL
Just getting to Qooqqut Festival was fun. Unlike other concerts in the world that I have been to where I took a charter bus or even drove myself, this time I arrived in the most exciting way - on the Sarfaq Ittuk ferry, which occasionally veers from its coastal route for special events.
Heading down to Atlantic Harbour on Friday evening to board the ferry was reminiscent of that first summer at sleepover camp. There is so much anticipation to get your cabin or bunk assignment, wondering, What room I will be in? Who is going to be across the hall? We waited our turn surrounded by excited families and even a few of the headliner musicians, which was refreshing to see them in line just like the rest of us. No red carpets here, we are all just people.
ENTERTAINMENT FIRST THING
After tossing my bag on my bed, we went straight to the café to get a good seat. I heard through the grapevine there was lamb soup and a special performance to kick off the musical weekend.
Right away I felt part of something special. All throughout the café there were hugs and warm greetings, laughter and small voices running by, and colouring books open at every table. Dida & The Foxy Ladies opened with a cover of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” as Sarfaq Ittuk shoved off, and so all 239 of us sang and sailed into the night.
...Then I saw the tents on the hill forming the central square, and I could not wait to get on land.
GOOD MORNING FROM PARADISE
Of course, not everyone took the ferry, as we came to see when we awoke on festival day anchored in the fjord just outside Qooqqut. Through groggy, half-open eyes and a frosty portal window, I made out what I thought were small icebergs in the water.
It was not until one tall mast came momentarily into focus that I realised the fjord was peppered not with ice but with private boats, anchored since the previous night. Then I saw the tents on the hill forming the central square, and I could not wait to get on land.
FREEDOM TO ENJOY
The transition from ferry to festival grounds was like releasing one of those holiday confetti poppers. People dispersed all over the area - some went straight for the music and workshops while others went to set up their tent campsites, and still others went to the hills for some early berry plucking. And just like that, the show was on.
The best part about Qooqqut Festival was the freedom. There are no rules about what you should do and when, and with no cellular service, you have all the time in the world to enjoy being out in beautiful surroundings sharing the day with others.
Kids ran around totally carefree and played football in the square. There was absolutely nothing out there that could harm them. All day long we made this leisurely rotation of listening to bands like Kimmernaq or Resirkulert from Norway, visiting workshop tents to learn throat-singing or to paint, having a picnic along the hedges, walking over to the restaurant Qooqqut Nuan to get a coffee, and people-watching in the square.
The transition from ferry to festival grounds was like releasing one of those holiday confetti poppers.
Keep an eye out at @ilovegreenland for the videos about Qooqqut Festival.
AURORA-INSPIRED LIGHT SHOW
As sunset fell and the evening air turned chilly, we returned to Sarfaq Ittuk to spend another night on board. From the top deck, not one but two light shows provided the nightcap before we sailed onward.
Late summer is the time to bid welcome back to the northern lights, and on this particular evening, they were waltzing happily in the clear sky.
On the ground, flame throwers and special strobe lights joined them in casting a colourful show onto the mountain behind.
NATURE’S CAFFEINE SHOT
Icebergs bumped off the ferry’s hull, popping and crackling when meeting each other’s deceptively sharp edges. The sun’s individual rays peeked around the mountain at almost the same minute I stepped onto the outer deck on Sunday morning, and the striations on Narsap Sermia glacier ahead came into clearer focus as we advanced.
This time it was not my eyes playing tricks on me. Waking up in the middle of the ice-filled Nuuk Icefjord was impressive! Such a sensory experience as this, first thing in the morning, makes coffee seem totally irrelevant.
Waking up in the middle of the ice-filled Nuuk Icefjord was impressive!
About THE Qooqqut FESTIVAL
- Qooqqut is a weekend getaway spot in Nuuk Fjord located a few hours from the capital city, Nuuk. Come to Nuuk with Air Greenland.
- There is also a boat dock, public restaurant called Qooqqut Nuan, and rental huts, in addition to locals’ private huts.
- Qooqqut Festival is an annual festival, typically taking place in early September, put on by Katuaq Culture House and local sponsors.
CONCERT AT SEA
Though we were on board the entire day on Sunday, the music theme of Qooqqut Festival continued. An afternoon concert by Maalia & Jones brought everyone together on the top deck. Other treats like a seafood lunch buffet, sitting outside in the sun, and tasting a special Mother of the Sea cocktail made the day so lovely we did not want to get off the ship.
A SOURCE OF ENERGY
Seeing the Nuuk skyline on Sunday evening was the sign that that fantastic weekend in the fjord was quickly coming to a close. Though I was sad to see the time slip through the hourglass, I also felt rejuvenated. Refreshed. Ready to go back to ‘the real world’ with a full tank of gas. The fjord is not just a beautiful place; it is a source of energy.
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