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Europe Will Crumble: The Rise Of Hatari

Updated: Nov 19, 2019

by Ciarán Daly

"Just last week, a young person from Holland approached us after a gig in Rotterdam. His history teacher was using Hatari as a way to educate his class about Palestine.”

This summer, Iceland made waves internationally at Eurovision 2019 with their entrants, Hatari, and their song Hatrið mun sigra ('Hate will prevail'). In protest at the contest's hosting in Israel, Hatari challenged Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to a wrestling match. During the vote count, they then unfurled Palestine flags in a deliberate violation of Eurovision's supposed political neutrality.

After coming 10th overall, Hatari immediately released a collaboration video with Palestinian singer Bashar Murad and used Eurovision as a launchpad for their first European tour, 'Europe Will Crumble'. At their London show, we caught up with them to discuss life after Eurovision - and reflect on the political statements that have fuelled their rise.


Related: "A party hiding apartheid" - our interview with Globalvision


The first thing you notice about Hatari is vocalist Matthías' eyes. He stares the audience down, pupils shrunken, beating his chest robotically, not demanding - but commanding - attention. In the back, maniacal drummer Einar's pupils gleam black from behind the spikes covering his face, a slave to the beat. Klemens offers a salve - melodic, mournful singing; hurt combined with righteous anger.

Sitting in the shadow of the majestic Mt. Esja, the Icelandic capital's dilapidated artificial marina is a mess of disused fishpacking buildings and industrial sprawl. It's also home to many of the city's underground parties, which in October 2016 included MYRKRAMAKT, the two-day Goth and metal fringe to the annual Iceland Airwaves festival.

Hatari singer Matthías Haraldsson at their recent London show. The singer is a red silhouette on stage in leather harnesses. hoto: Megan Daly
Hatari singer Matthías Haraldsson at their recent London show. Photo: Megan Daly

Out of the rain, some art students checked the guestlist in a dark corridor filled with smoke and the screams of Hatari. The band had been formed months before, and it was one of their very first gigs.

Born as a performance art project by cousins Klemens Hannigan and Matthías Haraldsson and drummer Einar Stefánsson, Hatari is part-band, part-Dadaist collective. Founded in 2016 with the express intention of overthrowing capitalism, they've been slowly chipping away at it ever since through a combination of evil-sounding BDSM-inspired techno and public pranks.

The eyes were there, even then. As was the leather, the dark glasses, the spike masks. Their image as fully-formed as it was so early on, it was obvious that their costumes were quickly going to outgrow spaces like these. There was little to suggest, however, that they would be catapulted further onto the world stage than any other band on Iceland's thriving scene this year - not least as its entry to Eurovision.

Breaking the Israel boycott

Hatari qualified with a landslide vote earlier this year to represent Iceland at Eurovision in Tel Aviv, Israel, prompting immediate national debate across Iceland at the time. Iceland has some of the highest pro-Palestine sentiment in the world according to surveys, and was the first country in the world to officially recognise Palestine with 1967 borders.

A photograph of the band Hatari from Iceland. Hatari: Einar Stefánsson, Klemens Hannigan, Matthías Haraldsson. Photo by Lilja Jóns
Hatari (from left to right): Einar Stefánsson, Klemens Hannigan, Matthías Haraldsson. Photo: Lilja Jóns

The band quickly became a popular fixture of the Reykjavík music scene over the past two years, and while many Icelanders were ecstatic about their entry to Eurovision, Hatari came under fire from both sides of the political divide for entering. Pro-Palestine advocates argued that their entry amounted to 'figleafing' and an immoral break with the boycott Israel (BDS) movement, some even accusing Hatari of hypocrisy. It raised the question: can breaking the boycott really be effective protest?

When asked whether their performance in the final vindicated their decision to ignore the boycott, Matthias is unapologetic. “It’s true that different actions would have yielded different results,” he says. “The boycott movement is a legitimate nonviolent means of protest that we encourage all our colleagues to consider. We did what we felt was right and still aim to use this platform responsibly."