Norwegian band Vajas (Echo) represented a synergy of arctic voices and sound: (i) the traditional Sami yoiks of Ánde Somby emanating from the distant tundra; (ii) the entrancing violin stylings and melodic voice of Kristin Mellem; and (iii) the renowned and captivating synthesizer sound voyages and creations of Nils Johansen.
All three accomplished musicians were based in the arctic city of Tromsø, northern Norway.
Ánde Somby is a famous Sami traditional yoiker as well as a well-known legal scholar and indigenous rights activist. Kristen Mellem is a classically trained violinist and composer who works with folk music, yoiking and community theatre. Nils Johansen is a contemporary musician and composer and was the music mastermind of the internationally celebrated group Bel Canto.
Vajas’ essence was the meeting of the cold arctic breeze and human warmth, the traditional Sami yoik combined with soundscapes.
Transjoik is a Sami group out of Norway. Where tradition and modernity have long been the two sole absolutes of the enigmatic path of the Sami people, Transjoik music represents an alternative route to the future.
Transjoik are two percussionists, one guitarist and a keyboard player. Four highly individualistic musicians who, besides playing a unique brand of music, also use their voices in such a way that defies description! Guttural chants, subterranean murmur and supernatural screams are some of the expressions that have been used in an attempt to describe Transjoik’s vocal renditions.
The music is rooted in the traditional Saami joik or yoik, but Transjoik has transformed this into a unique style. Based on old joik wax recordings, Transjoik have developed a modern, yet timeless, evocative musical environment. The music can be hypnotic, exciting, vital and powerful. To many it also has a sacred, religious or supernatural dimension. If one had to classify this music, the terms ambient, trance and techno would come to mind. World music could also be used unambiguously. At any rate, Transjoik have taken this genre to new heights.
Joiking is one of the oldest musical forms in Europe, but it has a strong and durable energy that ensures its lasting presence. It describes people, nature, the environment, and transmits a primitive force that stimulates both body and soul. Transjoik have developed the joiks, mixed them with elements from our daily urban life, and created something that is fascinatingly unique.
Transjoik released their third album Meavraa in 2002. Meavraa is an old South Sami expression that means “the vocal sound of the shaman calling for his helping spirit.”
In 2005, Transjoik’s CD, Uja Nami, was nominated for Spellemannsprisen, the most important Norwegian music award.
Transjoik toured Norway and Germany in 2008, including projects together with Sher Miandad Khan, Susanne Lundeng and Mari Boine.
Band members: Frode Fjellheim, Tor Haugerud, Nils-Olav Johansen, and Snorre Bjerck.
Niko Valkeapää was born on December 30, 1968 in Enontekiö, Finland. He’s a Finnish-Sami singer-songwriter and vocalist. He has been living in Kautokeino in the north of Norway since 1990. He is the Godson of the late multitalented Nils Aslak Valkeapää. Niko has recorded new melodies to several of Nils Aslak’s poems on his albums. He has also ventured into new directions and has become a major influence and inspiration for many younger Saami artists.
Even though Valkeapää’s music is rooted in Sami tradition, his style is closer to electronica-infused pop than traditional Sami chanting. “The songs on my album deal with themes such as urbanity, cultural diversity and introspective exploration. Inter-human relations, social reactions and themes that circle around these factors are also central topics in my lyrics,” says the songwriter.
Niko won the Saami Grand Prix in 1994 and 1995 and received “Spellemannsprisen”, the top Norwegian music award in open class, in 2003 for his debut album ”Niko Valkeapää”. Niko also won the Liet Ynternasjonaal song contest for European Minority Languages, in 2004 where he won the Public Choice price as well.
In the summer of 2008 Niko’s double album ”Birrat Birra” came out. It won Norwegian Folk Music Awards in two categories, Open Class and ”Most Innovative Folk Music”.
Nils-Aslak Valkepää, called Aillohas by his fellow Samis, was born on March 23, 1943 in Enontekiö, Finland. He was one of the trail-blazers of traditional and modern Sami music since the 1960s.
Aillohas was one of the first artists to present traditional Sami joik on stage. He performed and toured throughout the world, and encouraged other joikers to perform in public. In addition to his activities as a performer and musician, he composed new music, was an author and worked with the fine arts.
His multimedia productions were exhibited widely. He collaborated with Finnish jazz and folk music fusion musicians to make several innovative recordings, and some of his compositions have become classics of Sami music. His Bird Symphony (Goase Dusse) received the Prix Italia Radio Music Award in 1993, and was the only musical entry to receive an award that year.
He opened the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer by performing the Olympic Welcome Joik (Dalveleaikkat). He composed film and theatre music, and his music has been used extensively in television programs.
Mari Boine (aka Mari Boine Persen) was born November 8, 1956 in Karasjok, Norway. She is feasibly the most famous Sami artist in the world. This remarkable singer has been an effective spokeswoman for Sami culture, both in her music and in interviews. As she explained: “I used to think men oppressing women or governments oppressing people realized what they were doing and were just cynical. But then I realized that often they are unaware and are filled with fear. I feel I have to find my way to their hearts to let them know what they are doing. It’s the only way to change things. That’s why I feel my music is important.”
“Our first relationship is to nature. You are part of nature, not the master of nature. This also gives us a strong sense of solidarity – you are about other people. Money is not important and power is not important. It’s more your personality, the human being that is important.”
Mari Boine’s music is directed by her robust and passionate voice, plus a few carefully selected instruments from people all over the world, notably the native South Americans. Most characteristic is her drum. She uses an African drum, but the combination of drum and voice goes back to ancient Sami culture and pre-Christian shamanism.
“The colonizers brought Christianity and told the Sami they had to forget their primitive religion – and music was part of that religion. A lot of people of my parent’s generation don’t accept the music, they say it’s devil’s music and what you sing when you’re drunk – the colonizers also brought alcohol. When I started to use a drum some people got worried and said, ‘Is she a Shaman?’ So I decided I couldn’t use a Sami drum.”
“I think your voice is a mirror of your soul and how you feel inside. When I began I was singing pop songs and ballads and didn’t sing from the heart. Over the last ten years I’ve been fighting this feeling of being inferior to Norwegian or western people and my voice got stronger as I decided I wouldn’t let anyone oppress me and that I have a value as S?mi. Western culture makes a distance between you and your body or heart. In Sami culture you think of everything as a whole.”
Her debut album Jaskatvuoda manna was released in 1985, although her breakthrough came in 1989 with Gula Gula.
Mari also collaborated with various international artists, among them Peter Gabriel on One World One Voice (1990) and Jan Garbarek in 1991/1992.
She has written commissioned works for both Vossajazz (1994) and Telemarksfestivalen (2005).
She composed the music to, and had the only role in, Mona J. Hoels short film Vuolgge mu mielde bassivárrái (Bli med meg til det hellige fjell) (1995).
Mari also wrote the music for the German film adaptation of the Hans and Greta fairytale (2005).
In 2003, Mari Boine was presented the Nordic Council Music Prize.
Lars-Ante Kuhmunen was born in 1979. He is a musician and reindeer breeder from Rensjön in Kiruna, a small town in the territory of Swedish Lapland (also known as Samiland). Lappland is the region inhabited by the Sami, geographically distributed throughout northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.
Kuhmunen specializes in yoik, the traditional vocal style of the Sami. In 2006 Kuhmunen released his debut album titled Birrasis, which won a national award that same year for best folk album. Birrasis includes a booklet with lyrics in the Sami language and Swedish as well as a comprehensive explanation in English of each song.
His second release was Somas Muittut, an album with strong political lyrics as well as subtle and poetic songs. In 2016, Lars-Ante Kuhmunen released Riihmagállis (A Legend), where he mixed Sami traditions and American roots music.
Johan Sara Jr. was born in 1963. He is one of the leading artists in the Sami music area. His musical activities range over a wide field. In addition to his work as a performing artist, he composes, arranges and produces music.
He has composed works of great complexity for orchestra, and has been involved in theater, film and television projects. In his performances he combines the traditional joik technique with other musical genres.
His album “Ovcci vuomi ovtta veaiggis” is an experimental fusion of Afro rhythms, jazz, rock and folk music. In another project, Sami joik meets Andalusian flamenco to the accompaniment of Indian tabla.
Sara is devoted to the traditional joik as a travelling partner along the way, and maintains an open mind to other musical forms.
Ovcci vuomi ovtta veaiggis – Nine Valleys in one dusk (DATCD 20, 1995)
Calbmeliiba (DATCD 29, 1999) Boska (DAT, 2003)
Orvos (DAT, 2009) Transmission – Rievdadus (DAT, 2015)
Norwegian act Adjagas is a yoik group formed in 2004 by Sara Marielle Gaup and Lawra Somby, both from a long line of Sami ancestry. A yoiker is a singer or a chanter with a Sami origin, and it represents a very historically important part of the musical history of Northern Europe.
Sara Marielle Gaup, born in 1984, is from Guovdageaidnu/Kautokeino, whose musical heritage was passed down to her from her parents and generations before that. She began singing at a very early age, and it was through continued musical education at SMG she developed her unique sense of performance and perfected her singing voice.
Lawra Somby, born in 1981, was taught the great gift of yoiking from his father, Ande Somby. Lawra started performing on a variety of stages in 1997, and he has performed his music both solo as well as with his father Ande, making him a an experienced singer with a strong stage presence.
Yoik is not about making stories about people, animals, situations or landscapes. Yoik is the young woman, the eagle, the grass field by the river they are recreations of a moment, a sense, a memory how the wings of a bird slowly touches your chin, the smell of a fireplace and and how it evokes memories. The yoik is about bringing memories into the light of day, making them available and inviting new people into this special world
Samiland, also known as Lapland, is the territory at the very northernmost parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland, spreading into Russia.