The Sámi people live across the borders of northern Scandinavia, Finland, and throughout the Kola Peninsula of north-western Russia. Joik is their characteristic vocal tradition, consisting of units of sound that have traditionally been used to invoke a person, animal, place, or experience. Formerly practiced by Sámi shamans in order to facilitate communication with the spirit world, traditional forms of joik continue to engage with the sacred on an essential level; one does not joik ‘about’ something; one simply joiks it.
My own relationship with joik began in earnest in 2011 when I travelled to the Norwegian Arctic to carry out research for my undergraduate dissertation into connections between joik, the Arctic environment and Sámi identity. I immediately felt a deep connection with joik, and I've been in love with it ever since, returning to Norway several times. On my debut EP (2017) I collaborated with the young Sámi joiker Marja Mortensson, and in 2016 I recorded a radio piece on 'joiking with rivers' for Outlook on the BBC World Service. In the same year I organised a concert for the acclaimed joiker Ánde Somby at Cafe OTO in London.
Joiking requires great skill, and the most acomplished Sámi joikers typically start learning at a young age and spend many years fine-tuning their art. This is part of what makes it beautiful, but it's also one of the reasons why joik can be incredibly difficult for outsiders to master. While joik virtuosity is not something a non-Sámi can realistically hope to achieve (unless you're prepared to dedicate a lifetime to it), I believe that the fundamental musical and philosophical components of joik are within reach for all of us.
Over the years I've slowly gone about incorporating various elements of joik into my own songwriting and performance, and through this I've been able to develop my own 'celtic style' of joik. One of my ambitions is to help others to discover and engage with this unique vocal tradition on their own terms. In 2017 I held an introductory joik course at SOAS (University of London), and I also teach on a one-to-one basis.
Listen to my Sámi joik playlist on Spotify!