Saturday, 27 February 2016

yoiking and taxonomy

Recently, as the large settlement of Tromsø was anticipating the return of the sun after six weeks of perpetual night (surely an event to celebrate but it was not as if the locals were emerging from dread and depression after this long, dark, sacred night, though I can’t say I was not very relieved to see the days waxing longer) and heralded the first patch of daylight with song.
The city and region that’s traditionally Sàmi (the older and rather pejorative term for the people was Laplander) is a big music scene—including the for a sort of ancient tone-poem called a yoik or joik. These chants, though wordless, are very evocative and full of meaning, and it’s said that the Sàmi peoples were taught yoiking by the elves and fairies and at birth, a yoik is composed for an individual, this personal signature being as important as one’s name—admitting later improvisations, of course. Places, animals, plants and the elements have their own special tunes as well. As with many aboriginal customs, joiking was regarded with suspicion and condemned as spell-casting and suppressed (along with their language) for generations but both have seen a strong resurgence in recent years—migrant children hosted in these northern communities are excited to receive yoiks of their very own. A lot more than just a salutation of the sun, one can listen to a selection of yoiks here or by searching the internet for more of these hauntingly beautiful folk chants, perhaps even composing your own signature sound.