One of Sami music’s foremost ambassadors, Mari Boine, is scheduled to play a set of shows in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Austira, Belgium and the Czech Republic in March.
Sami singer Mari Boine, who has collaborated with Jan Garbarek and Peter Gabriel among others, returns to London for a one-off gig at Cargo in Shoreditch which marks the start of a hectic March tour that includes gigs in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Austira, Belgium and the Czech Republic .
Mari Boine has brought the contemporary music traditions of Norway's Sami people, to the international stage. Forsaking traditional music for the modern sounds of "joik," Boine has incorporated influences of jazz, rock, and other ethnic music. Boine’s success has been a source of pride for the Sami people. As the Norwegian newspaper VG pointed out, "ethnic music has a rather large audience outside Norway. You should be aware of the fact that perhaps the most interesting artist in this wide field of music is from the Sami people and living in Norway."
Despite early resistance based on her Sami heritage and womanhood, Boine continues to build a loyal following in her homeland. Her first two albums – ‘Gula Gula’ in 1989 and ‘Jaskatvouda Mann’ in 1992 - hinted at her skills, while, her third album, ‘Goaskinviellja’, released in 1993, received a Norwegian Grammy and marked her as one of Norway's greatest stars. Her fourth album, ‘Leahkastin’, was commissioned for the Vĺssajazz Festival and premiered in March 1994. ‘Balwoslatjna’, her fifth album, followed in 1998. Boine was also a featured vocalist on Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek's album, ‘Twelve Moons’.
The concert series will showcase music from her latest release ‘In the Hands of the Night’ (‘Idjagiedas’), where once again she blends traditional Sami music with jazz-friendly instrumentation and ambient electronica;
“backed by deft use of guitar, trumpet, flute and synthesizer, Boine brings her culture to life with spine-tingling intensity”, The Times.
Born on November 8th 1956 in Gámehisnjárga by Karasjok, Mari Boine trained as a teacher at the Regional College in Alta but has been a full-time musician since 1985. Her debut album Jaskatvuoda Manna was released in 1985, while her breakthrough album was the 1989 release Gula Gula. When she made her debut as an artist in the early 80s she was angry, and had every reason to be. There were many people and circumstances keeping her down. Christianity, oppression of the Sámi language and culture, as she describes them as ”the big men down south.”
In This Is How I Was Convinced from 1982 she writes: ”I laughed with those who made fun of the Sámi/ even though I felt I hurt myself the most/Because it’s your own language which gives you strength.” At first she sang in Norwegian and English then eventually in Sámi. ”It’s a good language to sing, it’s so rich for vocals,” she says. Her anger, political statements, and 1989 breakthrough, both at home and abroad, with Gula Gula made her a well-known artist. A person people listened to. Many people now saw her as a spokesperson for the Sámi people and the Sámi cause.
Yet she didn’t see herself as a politician, ”I can’t represent a whole people. But I can tell my story as a Sámi, and in that way tell part of the Sámi people’s story. In my songs I can depict the pain of oppression, the struggle to regain self-respect, but also the joy of growing up in a culture, which has such a close bond with nature. I haven’t always been so politically active. My commitment came with the music.”
Mari grew up in an environment where the Sámi language was accepted; where it was OK to sing psalms, but not to joik. In the strict lćstadian milieu joik was viewed as the devil’s work. ”I am not Christian today,” she says. ”But I have a holistic religion. I think this religion is gaining ground world wide. In my prayers I look to the forces in nature, such as the sun god Beaivi, the thunder god, wind god and the Sámi goddesses. I am not familiar with the old rituals as the transmission from the elder generation to the younger was broken by Christian missionaries. But my music has opened up a spirituality which gives me meaning, but that I can’t always express in words.”
When Mari was awarded the Nordic Council’s Music Prize in 2003 it was for her ethnic intuition, her artistic strength and for an ability to communicate which lets her reach people in all corners of the world, regardless of cultural background. The award panel commented, “She has retained her musical roots, while giving them a contemporary expression which reaches an enormous audience all over the world.”
Critics have praised her use of both ancient and modern music to express her feelings about her role in the world and of Sámi culture, one writer commenting on her album Eight Seasons wrote; ”It’s completely irrelevant what you call her music. It’s music that blends seamlessly into the rhythms and sound picture of our times. She could have sung her songs a thousand years ago, or in a thousand years and still retained the same depth and resonance. To rephrase it: It is as though Mari Boine’s voice reveals just the smallest slice of eternity.”