Oct 14, 2013

Metal and religion

Metal and Religion
The Case of Christian Metal and Nordic Youth Culture

by Henna Jousmäki

Can you be both a metalhead and a practicing Christian?

Can you be both Christian and Nordic?

These are some of the questions I encountered when researching for my contribution to this volume on Nordic Popular Music.

My chapter begins by looking into the phenomenon of Christian black metal, also known as Unblack Metal. This curious metal genre, popular so far particularly among Christian metal fans in the US and the Nordic countries, is finding new adherents as well as detractors in YouTube, currently with some 200,000 uploaded videos.

I investigate Christian black metal as an example of how the borders of ‘Christian music’ as well as ‘metal music’ are being redefined. In the process, also notions of Nordic religiosity become re-negotiated. In practice, I study the circulation of and discussion on this type of music, alongside with a ‘lighter’ form of Christian metal, especially in relation to ‘the Nordic’. Such analysis provides a useful perspective on how contemporary youths experience the relationship between music, place and religion.

Oct 8, 2013

Hip Hop, Racism, and the Welfare Society

Hip Hop, Racism, and the Welfare Society

by Alexandra D'Urso

The idea to learn more about hip hop music and anti-racist pedagogy developed from ongoing attempts to make sense of what I perceived to be a contrast between broadly held beliefs about Nordic democratic ideals juxtaposed against a setting of increasing far-right party involvement and xenophobia across the region. While this growing phenomenon is not limited to the Nordic region, it sits within a wider European context of heightened immigrant mistrust and deepening cuts to social welfare programs in the midst of the economic crisis.

Eboi - "Immigrants"

Given the greater European economic situation, increasing political extremism might appear to have an understandable context within which to grow; however, the nagging contradiction of far-right extremist activity in the region that holds a monopoly on the perception of being a democratic utopia seemed too striking to write off as merely a ripple effect of economic woes.

I chose to look at voices that contest far-right populist understandings of national identity and use the medium of hip hop music and culture to create wider spaces of belonging and self-empowerment.

Hip hop music has historically been used as a means of negotiating and putting forth alternative perspectives. Building upon my dissertation research, I wanted to learn more about examples of hip hop music’s counter-discourse on national identity, through which individuals of foreign origin feel empowered to claim national identity on their own terms.

I was curious about how rappers themselves work as public pedagogues by attempting to contextualize a larger picture of how changing socioeconomic realities at the local, regional, and international level inform public understandings of racism and discrimination. I describe how the rappers Eboi and Adam Tensta draw upon changing political circumstances to nuance and challenge popular images of immigrants in contemporary Nordic societies.

Sámi Musical Performance at Festivals

Sámi Musical Performance at Festivals

By Thomas Hilder

The Sámi are Europe’s only recognised indigenous people, whose traditional land traverses Arctic regions of present day Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Russian Kola Peninsula. Through a post-World War II political and cultural movement, the Sámi have highlighted their history of Christianisation, land dispossession and cultural assimilation at the expense of Nordic nation building, whilst also working towards Sámi political self-determination across the Nordic states and forging international links with other indigenous communities. Part of this process was the emergence of a Sámi popular music scene, within which the revival of the distinct and formerly suppressed unaccompanied vocal tradition of joik was central. Through joiking with instrumental accompaniment, incorporating joik into popular music forms, performing on stage and releasing recordings, Sámi musicians have increased representations of the Sámi, assisted in wider cultural revival, and contributed to political debates concerning the Sámi throughout the Nordic states and beyond (Jones-Bamman 2006 [2001]). Expanding rapidly over the last decade, Sámi popular music has become a dynamic arena characterised by a plethora of musicians (‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ joikers as well as non-joiking artists), performing in a range of styles and genres (including techno, jazz, heavy-metal, classical and rap), and supported by numerous cultural and political institutions (Sámi festivals, Sámi Radio, Sámi record companies, Norwegian Sámi Parliament). In these ways, Sámi popular music helps to imagine a transnational Sámi community Sápmi, traversing Arctic regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Russian Kola Peninsula, whilst furthermore articulating Sámi concerns as an indigenous people (Diamond 2007; Hilder 2012; Ramnarine 2009).

In my chapter for the volume I will investigate Sámi popular music and its role in shaping peoples lives in a broader Nordic context. I conduct three case studies around a set of thematically connected questions:

1. What is the role of the Kautokeino Easter Festival in the growth of Sámi popular music, in building a transnational Sámi community, and supporting Sámi cultural self-determination within and beyond the frameworks of the Nordic states?

2. How has Eurovision offered opportunities for Sámi political recognition, the transformation of notions of Sámi-ness, and the re-shaping of Nordic national narratives?

3. How has inter-indigenous collaboration at Riddu Riđđu shaped Sámi popular music, and strengthened cosmopolitan ties with other indigenous people? My research on Sámi music is informed by multi-sited ethnography which I have been conducting in the Nordic peninsula since 2006, involving interviews with musicians, participant-observation in musical performance, and analysing Sámi musical recordings and media. By drawing on studies of Nordic nationalism, postcolonial and political theory, and the literature of cosmopolitanism, I aim to explore how Sámi popular music in these three festival contexts transforms liberal democratic political philosophy in the Nordic peninsula.


Diamond, Beverley. 2007. 'The Music of Modern Indigeneity: From Identity to Alliance Studies'. ESEM 12: 169-90.

Hilder, Thomas. 2012. 'Repatriation, Revival and Transmission: The Politics of a Sámi Cultural Heritage'. Ethnomusicology Forum 21(2): 161-79.

Jones-Bamman, Richard Wiren. 2006 [2001]. 'From "I'm a Lapp" to "I am Saami": Popular Music and changing Images of indigenous Ethnicity in Scandinavia'. In Ethnomusicology: A contemporary Reader, edited by J. C. Post, 351-67. London and New York: Routledge.

Ramnarine, Tina K. 2009. 'Acoustemology, Indigeneity, and Joik in Valkeapää's Symphonic Activism: Views from Europe's Arctic Fringes for Environmental Ethnomusicology'. Ethnomusicology 53(2): 187-217.