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 ). 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 . '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.