Swedish Language Blog

Music Blog Highlights Sámi Music Posted by on Feb 5, 2020 in Culture, Living in Sweden

Top row: Slincraze, ISÁK, Bottom Row: Riddu Riđđu, Maxida Märak

If you read my last post, you know that it’s a very special week in Sápmi, Northern Sweden. A small town with a big reputation, Jokkmokk, is hosting its 415th Winter Market. Celebrating life above the Arctic Circle and putting a spotlight on Sámi culture, this tiny town of around 2,000 swells to over 10,000 during market week. So, it only makes sense that this month’s music post features Sámi music! I’ll mention a few folks that I admire, feature a reflection from a Sámi friend and fellow music lover, and finally, leave you with a playlist to discover more. 

For more background on Jokkmokk’s Winter Market, see my post from last week here. To learn more about the living culture of the Sámi people, please visit samer.se and sametinget.se.

Modern Sámi Music

Modern Sámi music reflects the trends in the Nordic and international music scene. Pop beats, hip-hop, smooth jazz, singer-songwriter ballads – it’s all there. But this genre sets itself apart sharing unique voices from the Sámi experience often unrepresented by mainstream society. These artists share their appreciation of the natural world, speak about journeys of self-discovery, and voice viewpoints on our changing world.

Sámi Music Often Features jojk

.In short, jojk is a Sámi vocal tradition used when one is moved by a powerful feeling. It is one of the oldest oral traditions in Europe. One can jojk for a loved one, special occasion, a beautiful landscape, out of sadness, or joy.  Jojking was banned in Sweden as a way to repress Sámi traditions at boarding schools and in the public until as late as the 1950’s. Now it’s celebrated once again and is a respected form of expression. Sara Marielle Gaup Beaska explains how this jojkGulahallat Eatnamiin / We Speak Earth” came to her.

What språk are Sámi artists using?

Sámi musicians use Sámi and Nordic languages, even English, to reach diverse audiences.  A surge in interest from young people to keep Sámi languages alive is ever-present among Sámi musicians and producers. Saara Hermansson won the Sámi Grand Prix song contest in 2019 with her original piece,  “Mov laavlome / My Song.” The text is written in South Sámi, spoken by under 1,000 speakers across Norway and Sweden.

Sámi Must-Know Artists

Musician Sofia Jannok jojks and sings in Sámi, Swedish, and English. A prominent voice in the Sámi community, she recently fueled a social movement to support the result of Girjasdomen; a historic victory by the Girjas community over the Swedish state that has been overshadowed by hateful and racist backlash. Hear her message and in the song, “This is My Land.” You go, Sofia! 

Maxida Märak is a headliner for Jokkmokk’s concert lineup this year featuring songs from her September 2019 release “Utopi / Utopia.” She wrote Nikesunnas jojk for her daughter and collaborated with Downhill Bluegrass Band to create this version in 2015.  

Another guest performer at this year’s market is Jokkmokk rapper and producer, Kitok. He made Swedish charts with his 2014 song “Jokkmokk Paradise.”

John Henrik Fjällgren recently released “The Way You Make Me Feel” featuring Elin Oskal. John Henrik has taken his jojking to Swedish television competing in Sweden’s Got Talent as well as the Swedish Song Contest Melodifestivalen.

Finding Meaning in Music

Sámi preschool teacher Evelina Olofsson and I met while she was studying at the Sámi Education Center in Jokkmokk in 2013. We bonded over music and it is something that helps stay us connected today! A big shout-out goes to Evelina for helping me with this post and curating a playlist featuring some Sámi artists you need to know! When I asked her what Sámi music means to her and she replied with this, first in South Sámi, then Swedish, which I translated to English:

“Saemien musihke munnjan lea raeffie. Maadtoe. Båetije biejjieh. Daelie.
Njaelkies bieljide jïh nuepie ööhpehtidh jïh veasodh.
Njaelkies pleentedh laavlomh jeatjah gïeline ,seamma goh jïeleme lea – vijries.” 

Samisk musik för mig är ro. Härkomst. Kommande dagar. Nu.
Det är gott åt öronen och en chans att lära och leva.
Det är gott att ha ett musikliv på olika språk, likväl som livet är – vitt och brett.

Sámi music for me is peace. Origin. The coming days. The present.
It’s good for my ears and a chance to learn and live.
It’s good to hold a musical life in different languages, just as life is – far and wide.”

An Intro to Sámi Music Playlist

February 6th is Sámi People’s Day, and what better way to celebrate than with music? Enjoy this playlist that Evelina created to share with you all! Giitu, Evey 😉

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About the Author: Chelsea B

Chelsea is a Swedish language instructor and translator living in Minnesota, U.S. She has a degree in Scandinavian Studies from Gustavus Adolphus College and has experience living and working in Sweden from north to south! In her free time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, listening to music, and practicing slöjd, the Swedish word for handcraft.