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103 Voices of the North, pt. V - The Sound of the Far East

30 . 06 . 2020


Video version of this episode

The ‘shore of two oceans’ is home to an ancient, Paleo-Siberian group of Arctic natives. With roughly 16,000 people the Chukchi who live in the interior of the Chukchi peninsula have traditionally been herdsmen and hunters of reindeer, while those who live along the coasts of the Arctic Ocean, the Chukchi Sea, and the Bering Sea have customarily hunted sea mammals such as seals, whales, walruses, and sea lions. The Chukchi call themselves the Lygoravetlat, which means "genuine people." In their long, turbulent and changeable history, the Chukchi did not have many constants, and its cultural traditions, such as music and shamanism, have suffered particularly in recent history.

The Chukchi represent a kind of bridge between cultures and combine throat singing with drum dance, later also with classical singing. Their unbreakable link with the natural world is found over and over in Chukchi folklore. The rich tradition, nurtured by centuries of development, is made up of numerous tales of animals and people. What is unique for the Chukchi, however, is that only women practiced both the local form of throat singing and drum dancing in order to say goodbye to the men who set off on the hunt. But in addition to the state-organized ethnic folklore groups, there are also young, up-and-coming bands that integrate the traditional music of the Chukchi into contemporary music.

102 The Greatest Ecological Disaster Since Exxon Valdez

17 . 06 . 2020


Watch this episode as a video.

In the beginning of June Russia has declared a state of emergency, just five days after a power plant fuel leak in its Arctic region caused 20,000 tonnes of diesel oil to escape into a local river, turning its surface crimson red. The Ambarnaya river, into which the oil has been discharged, is part of a network that flows into the environmentally sensitive Arctic Ocean. Built on permafrost that’s rapidly melting in a warming Arctic, the pillars that supported the plant’s fuel tank started to sink. Two days passed before local authorities learned of the spill from the Nadezhdinsky Metallurgical Plant. Even then, local officials only learned of the spill from social media. The plant is operated by a division of Nornickel, whose factories in the area have made the city of Norilsk one of the most heavily polluted places on Earth.

Open a map of the area

The surprisingly open media coverage of this incident gives an unprecedented insight into mining and drilling operations in the Russian Arctic and its connected threats for the fragile environment.

Environmentalists have said the river would be difficult to clean, given its shallow waters and remote location, as well as the magnitude of the spill. A World Wildlife Fund speaking to the AFP news agency described this as the second-largest known oil leak in modern Russia’s history in terms of volume.

The Russian chapter of activist group Greenpeace said damages to the Arctic waterways could be at least 6 billion rubles (over $76 million), and has compared the incident to Alaska’s 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster. Its estimate does not include atmospheric damage due to greenhouse gases and soil pollution. The installed buoys will only help collect a small part of the pollution, leading us to say that nearly all the diesel fuel will remain in the environment. The clean-up effort could take between 5-10 years.

101 Voices of the North, pt. IV - Microcosm of a Vanishing Culture

02 . 06 . 2020


Spread over an immense tundra and forest-tundra zone from the Kanin Peninsula on the European side to the Taimyr Peninsula on the Siberian side of the Russian North, the Nenets are one of 40 Russias indigenous small-numbered peoples of the North, Siberia, and the Far East. Like their ancestors, they are still mainly nomadic people with their main subsistence coming from hunting and reindeer herding. Their shamanistic and animistic belief system, which stresses respect for the land and its resources, also intimately linked their song tradition with shamanistic ritual in the past. But the Nenet’s song is much more complex and contains several different types. Part four of our exploration of Arctic indigenous music.

Here's what kept Chris busy for the last weeks: PHOTO SENSEI - interactive video sessions with your favorite photographers and educators

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