Welcome back to the Homegrown Plus series, in which we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both videos together in an easy-to-find blog post. (Find the whole series here!) We’re continuing the series with our first concert to feature Sámi music, performed by the fascinating singer, songwriter, and musician Ánnámáret. The American Folklife Center was very happy to co-sponsor this concert with our friends at the Embassy of Finland. You can find Ánnámáret’s own website here.
Ánnámáret is the performing name of Sámi musician Anna Näkkäläjärvi-Länsman. Ánnámáret performs yoik, a distinctive singing and songwriting tradition of the Sámi people, and also plays clarinet. From 2012 to 2015, she worked as the Regional Artist for Sámi Culture. Her band Ánnámáret Ensemble has released two recordings of yoiks and songs for which she composed music and lyrics in the Sámi language.
In recent years, Ánnámáret has explored the yoik tradition of her family by studying archival tapes of family members. Through this work, she has created the multi-form work of art called Nieguid duovdagat (Dreamscapes), in which yoiking, the playing of the bowed lyre called a jouhikko, and modern live electronics are combined with live visuals. “The yoiks are new but I have tried to capture the ancient feeling in many of the yoiks,” she told us. “In some tunes I have the courage to step towards other styles as well.” Asked whether the instrumentation was traditional, she replied: “Yoik is the vocal music style of the Sámi people. Instruments are not used traditionally in this vocal music. Nieguid duovdagat brings yoiks to a modern context with the instrumentation.”
Ánnámáret’s strength as an artist springs from having grown up between two cultures and, thus, in understanding these cultures and their collisions and similarities.
Since her Homegrown concert and interview happened, Ánnámáret’s project Nieguid duovdagat has earned her some of the top honors available for folk music in Finland. In particular, Suomen Kansanmusiikkiliitto (The Finnish Folk Music Association), Kansanmusiikki-lehti (Folk Music Magazine), and Kansanmusiikin ja Kansantanssin Edistämiskeskus (The Center for the Promotion of Folk Music and Folk Dance) jointly awarded the Nieguid duovdagat album Folk Music Record of the Year for 2021. For that reason among others, we’re very happy that for her Homegrown concert, Ánnámáret performed songs from Nieguid duovdagat, accompanied by the same musicians who featured on the award-winning recording: Ilkka Heinonen, who specializes in folk music on the jouhikko, G-violone and contrabass; and Turkka Inkilä, who plays flutes and electronic instruments.
After the concert and the interview, I’ll put in links to some further Sámi resources you can explore. But by now, you’re ready to watch the concert. See Ánnámáret with Ilkka Heinonen and Turkka Inkilä in the player below!
In case you were intrigued by the instruments, Ilkka Heinonen wrote in to give us some details: “The jouhikko is a bowed stringed instrument that used to be played mostly in Karelia (a region between Russia and Finland) and the Swedish-speaking Estonian Isles. The long playing tradition of the instrument almost disappeared in the beginning of the 20th century, but the instrument has enjoyed a revival since the 1980s.”
Meanwhile, Ánnámáret let us know that Turkka Inkilä’s main flute in the concert is a Japanese shakuhachi.
In our conversation, I spoke with Ánnámáret about Sámi culture, beginning with the clothing she was wearing, which demonstrated the aesthetics and skills of Sámi craftspeople, including members of her family. We spoke about the Sámi’s status as the only Indigenous community in Europe, and the impact of colonialism on Sámi life. And, of course, we spoke about Sámi music, including yoik, and her own career as a musician and cultural advocate. Watch the interview below!
At this point, I customarily add some links to AFC collections, but as it happens, not many AFC collections include Sámi materials. Still, the Library of Congress has some interesting articles on Sámi culture around the blogs for you to explore.
“Return of a Sámi Drum” by Elin Hofverberg of In Custodia Legis tells the riveting story of a Sámi healer who died while on trial for witchcraft in 1692, and the repatriation of his drum to the Sámi museum in 2022.
“Happy National Sami Day!” also by Elin Hofverberg, gives an overview of Sámi culture with links to Sámi history resources.
“Lappkodicillen of 1751 – the Sami Magna Carta,” another of Elin Hofverberg’s blogs, concerns a legal document important to Sámi nomadic life.
(Elin has written more fascinating blogs about Sámi issues as well. Find all of them at this link!)
Finally, I’ll mention “Will the Sami Languages Disappear?” by my late friend Taru Spiegel, who was a Reference Specialist in the European Division. This excellent blog post at 4 Corners of the World deals with efforts to preserve and revive the Sámi languages.
As always, we thank you for watching, listening, reading, and exploring! The American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Concert Series brings music, dance, and spoken arts from across the country, and some from further afield, to the Library of Congress. For information on current concerts, visit the Folklife Concerts page at Concerts from the Library of Congress. For past concerts, including links to webcasts and other information, visit the Homegrown Concerts Online Archive.