Kolbeinn Bjarnason was born in Reykjavík in 1958 and studied philosophy and literature at The Icelandic University and flute at Reykjavík College of Music. He continued his studies with the Austrian flute player Manuela Wiesler and several other leading flautists. Fascinated by the world of Japanese music he decided to take shakuhachi lessons with Ralph Samuelsson in New York and Teruhisa Fukuda in Tokyo. He has been specializing in Japanese music for 25 years, performing new works, lecturing and making radio programmes on new and traditional Japanese music.
Bjarnason has worked with most Icelandic composers, including Sveinsson, Hallgrímsson, Thórarinsson, Hauksson and Björnsson, who have dedicated their works to him. He has worked with such disparate composers as Toshio Hosokawa, Hiroyuki Itoh, Noriko Miura, Brian Ferneyhough, Doina and Diana Rotaru, Hans-Henrik Nordström and Simon Mawhinney, among others.
His recordings of the complete flute music of Ferneyhough have received international acclaim. He is a co-founder of Caput Ensemble.