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100 Voices of the North, pt. III - The beauty of Joiks

19 . 05 . 2020

Notes

Spread over a vast area, covering four countries, the Sámi people have inhabited the arctic and sub-arctic regions of Fennoscandia for over 3,500 years. To make up for past suppression, the authorities of Norway, Sweden and Finland now make an effort to build up Sámi cultural institutions and promote Sámi culture and language. Currently, the revitalisation of the Sami culture has grown strong and the Sami traditions have been reinvigorated by increasing awareness and conscious efforts to preserve the Sami culture as a unique and valued part of the Scandinavian societies. A characteristic feature of Sámi musical tradition is the singing of joik.

Joiks are song-chants and are traditionally sung a cappella, usually sung slowly and deep in the throat with the apparent emotional content of sorrow or anger. In a way, it is similar to the Inuit throat singing and isn’t at the same time. Using the voice and forming sounds deep in the throat might appear similar, the outcome and performance, however, is completely different. Joik, the singing tradition of Sami, is considered to be ancient with roots presumably in prehistoric times. It is unique to the Sami culture and particularly among European singing traditions. This singing tradition is characterized by a special vocal technology that utilizes nearly the whole range of the human natural vocal potential and was original without instrumental accompaniment. The use of words could vary from one region to another, from nearly none in the North Sami language area to long epic descriptions in East Sami in the Kola Peninsula. The melodies with regular rhythmic and melodic patterns could often be freely played with and improvised on. Additionally, joik could also be applied to story-telling.

There is a lot of research about joiks and there is even the theory, that the joik have had and possibly still has a role as a health-promoting and/or resilience factor within the Sami culture, giving the Sámi people a significant difference compared to other indigenous people in the Arctic. Usually sung a cappella, musical instruments frequently accompany joiks in recent years. Joik remains an integral part of Sámi culture because of its integrative quality. A joik connects the performer and his or her listeners, not only with each other but with their collective past by uniting it with present experience. As Richard Jones-Bamman has put it: Joiking effectively collapses time. Not all Sámi can perform joik, but knowledge of the genre is still a key symbol of Sámi communal identity. Even though its existence was long denied in public pronouncements, joik has continued to be practiced and heard.

For modern Sámi artists like Sofia Jannok the joiek philosophy remains the base of their work, they delicately blend the old vocal tradition with genres like pop, electronica, and jazz. As South Sámi singer Marja Mortensson has put it: “Joik is like a whole philosophy. It’s about the connection with nature and the people around you. When I joik, my head gets filled with images, and I feel that I travel – either to a place or into the soul of the person I am joiking.”

Check out this Spotify playlist with Sámi music.

099 Voices of the North, pt. II - ULO, The World’s Most Successful Record Label

12 . 05 . 2020

Contributors


Henry Páll Wulff
Expedition Guide, Naturalist
Chris Marquardt
Photographer, Author, Podcaster, Traveler, Educator

Henry Páll Wulff

Expedition Guide, Naturalist

Chris Marquardt

Photographer, Author, Podcaster, Traveler, Educator

Notes

In a vast but sparsely populated country music is more than just entertainment. This is even more true in a place like Greenland, the largest island in the world. Where traditional Inuit music like drum dance is mainly performed to entertain tourists today it is even more important to find ways to include those over 4,000 year old traditional elements within modern-day pop culture. And when the record label ULO released the rock band Sumé's first album Sumut in 1973 it singlehandedly kickstarted the local rock scene by uniquely singing in the Greenlandic language and using elements of traditional drum dances in the music. The label, that could be legitimately the world's most successful record label, is today Greenland's only major music label. Their least successful releases sell the equivalent of four times platinum in Europe. Their biggest seller was purchased by an estimated twenty percent of Greenland's total population, in numbers over 10,000 units to a population of only 56,000 people. That equates to twenty-five million sold copies in the states! That only can work because the people in Greenland love listening to their local music. Releasing between 10 and 15 records per year, the music scene in Greenland couldn't be any more diverse. Stretching over half the length of Africa, the biggest island in the world spreads its tiny population along a 44,000 kilometers (27,000 miles) long coastline with no roads between the settlements, far away from each other. Music has become the link between people all over Greenland. And music is the new medium of poetry. Rock and pop present thoughts and ideas to Greenlanders. That makes the country probably the hottest music market in the world - if you compare the sales numbers with the numbers of inhabitants.

Check out the Sounds of Greenland on Spotify.

098 Voices of the North, pt. I - The Story of Aakuluk Music

05 . 05 . 2020

Contributors


Henry Páll Wulff
Expedition Guide, Naturalist
Chris Marquardt
Photographer, Author, Podcaster, Traveler, Educator

Henry Páll Wulff

Expedition Guide, Naturalist

Chris Marquardt

Photographer, Author, Podcaster, Traveler, Educator

Notes

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If there is one thing that cultures around the world have in common then it’s music. Music helps us to express emotions, to celebrate, to mourn. We connect memories with certain songs, couples have "their" song, films without music are hard to imagine nowadays and even in a time when films didn't have their own sound, pianists played a suitable score in the cinemas. But at the same time music is very much connected to each culture itself, to traditions and language. With the upcoming episodes we would like to shed a light on the music culture of the circumpolar north.

The first part of this mini series takes a look into the music of Nunavut, probably the largest Inuit territory. In a culture that lives in small communities, was largely nomadic, and is cut off from the outside world for most of the year, music plays an even bigger role. Traditional Inuit music has been based on drums used in dance music as far back as can be known. When you travel along the different Inuit cultures from Greenland to Canada and Alaska towards Russia, you will find the basics of the drum dances in all the cultures and the same applies for the second base of traditional Inuit music, a vocal style called katajjaq, Inuit throat singing. Mostly performed as a duet, this form of throat singing mimics the natural world. Wind, ice, sea and bird sounds dominate.

This traditional form of singing was only recently threatened with extinction. The colonisation of the Arctic has almost everywhere caused the nomadic peoples to be settled and the language of the colonial power to be spoken primarily at school, Danish in Greenland, English in Canda and Alaska. This effectively prevented the transfer of this purely oral form of expression. Fortunately, however, today we find a lively Inuit culture everywhere in the circumpolar Arctic. And as the Inuit languages see a new rise so does the throat singing. And it’s amazing to see that it’s not only part of today’s Inuit musical pop culture but being adopted by people all around the world. At the German University of Music FRANZ LISZT in Weimar two throat singers from Nunavut, Kiah Hachey and Karen Flaherty, are joined by three electronic music artists, Paul Hauptmeier, Martin Recker and Sergio Valencia. Inuit throat singing usually doesn’t include any form of instrumentation and the two guys simply create environments for the audience to encapsulate and experience the throat singing. They place the wonderful singing into an environment, space if you wish that allows you to ground and reference the throat singing and chanting.

As music has become a huge part in Western culture it always has been in Inuit culture. Inspired by traditional throat singing and contemporary artists, young Inuit musicians offer a modern take on Inuit life. And in 2016 the band members of the band The Jerry Cans founded Nunavut’s first record label. The alt-country band The Jerry Cans started the label because they found it very challenging to navigate the music industry from Iqaluit. When in 2016 Aakuluk Music started its business in Nunavut's capital Iqaluit it was a first-timer. The first label in Nunavut, the first step to build up an infrastructure we take for granted in Western cultures. But up north, things are different. Today, Aakuluk Music’s mission is to record, market and distribute music sung in Inuktitut and originating from Inuit traditions, building hope through music and community, and preserving the territory's distinct culture. And a few more record labels, like Hitmakerz, followed since then.

Check out Aakuluk Music's sounds on Spotify.

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