January 21, 2007


Arctic magic: It is Europe's oldest known music, with its own bloody history. Now the 'yoik' of the Sami people is being revived - with a hip new twist, reports Chris Campion from the Arctic Circle (Chris Campion, January 21, 2007, Observer)

Nilas Porsanger, a small, sprightly 83-year-old wearing a flat cap and large square-rimmed glasses, kneels in front of a campfire. Sound comes out of him in a keening burr, as he rocks forward slightly; he appears to fan the flames with his breath.

His 'song' comprises a short syllabic phrase, repeated but never quite the same. Other voices slowly join in, more it seems in cheery discord than perfect harmony, each tracing the melody to their own subtle rhythm, together producing a hypnotic modulating effect.

This is the yoik - the song of the Sami, the aboriginal people of arctic Scandinavia - and the oldest extant music tradition in Europe, dating back more than 2,000 years. The yoik has been alternately banned and suppressed for centuries.

It is a sound now being revived by a group called Adjagas, itself a Sami word that denotes the mental state between sleeping and waking. Lawra Somby and Sara Marielle Gaup, two Sami in their twenties with a proud history to uphold, formed Adjagas in 1994.

They hit on the idea of starting a festival called Juiogan Reimat ('a Yoik gathering') to bring together the best yoikers in Samiland as a celebration of the music, although the event seems to be largely a family affair. Lawra's father Ande, a renowned yoiker himself, acts as MC. Sara and her family - mother, father and younger brother - have taken care of the logistics for preparing and operating the camp. Her father, Ante Mikkel Gaup, is also a yoiker of note.

With just seven performers, an audience of around 20 and no stage to speak of this could be the most intimate music festival in the world. But it's no walk in the park to get there, requiring a three-hour drive from the nearest city (Tromso in Norway) and a 20-minute cruise across Kilpisjarvi, the lake that straddles the border between Sweden and Finland, to get anywhere near the site.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 21, 2007 12:04 AM

Shades of Diamond's Collapse, fawning over the culture of evolutionary losers, hiding from progress in land of no value, while the real Europeans are from the banks of the Tiber.

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 21, 2007 10:48 AM