Music can touch on strings you might not know you had. It can provide meaning, but it can also create moments which can’t be defined. Moments which go to your core, that touch some sort of primal instinct, and that put you in a trancelike condition. Music can confuse you. But it can also make you feel happy, uplifted or enriched. And maybe even more whole.
Mari Boine’s music has this effect. You can’t leave a meeting with Mari and her music untouched. That is, if you dare to let her get close. Her music is actually simple. It is in the meeting between the songs, her voice and the musicians in the band that it gains strength. And in the interaction with the listener, because you must meet Mari’s music with an open mind. If you don’t give of yourself, you might not discover the wealth she has to offer.
Because – Mari is exceptional. She is an artist who is difficult to categorize.
Perhaps she’s a Sámi artist, perhaps she’s a practitioner of world music. Perhaps she makes music in the borderline between Sámi, other folk music, jazz and rock.
Perhaps she’s the sum of all this.
Or perhaps she’s just herself. A musician, singer and artist who’s making her own mark. Who has gone down a road where she hasn’t always seen the destination. And who is still travelling.
En route she has gained confidence and a clear sense of who she is and what she stands for. But the road is long. There are still surprises and challenges lurking ahead.
She made her debut as an artist in the early 80s. She was angry, and had every reason to be. There were many people, many circumstances keeping her down. Christianity, oppression of the Sámi language and culture, ”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. Eventually in Sámi. ”It’s a good language to sing, it’s so rich in vocals”, she says.
Her anger, political statements, and 1989 breakthrough, both at home and abroad, with ”Gula Gula” made her a well-known person. A person one listened to. Many people now saw her as a spokesperson for the Sámi people and the Sámi cause.
”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”, she says.
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 læstadian 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.
”She has retained her musical roots, while giving them a contemporary expression which reaches an enormous audience all over the world”, it was said.
She now has a new album. There are some surprises waiting there, too.
”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”, a critic wrote of her last album ”Gâvcci Jahkejuogo (Eight Seasons)”.
It’s easy to make many of the same reflections when listening to ”Idjagiedas”. The intensity, the intimacy, and the strong personal presence, make it easier to understand Mari when she says:
”Music is my life, the song is my breathing”.
In Mari’s words
It’s been more than four years since ”Gavcci jahkejuogo (Eight Seasons)” was released. People ask me why there’s such a long time span between each album. The answer is simple, I need that time. There have always been three or four years between albums. I need that amount of time to gather impressions, to have something real to express.
So much happens around an album. First it takes time to create and gather the material. Then it takes just as much time to record the songs. Afterwards there’s the press, interviews.
And then, of course, there’s my favourite part, getting out and playing the songs for people. Time to live, and to feel the vivid life is also part of it. At least for me.
It could’ve taken even longer, if the Telemark Festival hadn’t invited me to make a commissioned production for last year’s festival. ”Idjagiedas (In the hand of the night)” consists in great part of songs I made for this production. With my regular base player and producer, Svein Schultz, and the musicians who participated in the presentation, I’ve ”polished” the music to the album version.
I’ve also added a couple other songs. One of them is written by a friend of mine, Ross Reaver. The song is called ”Big Medicine” and is part of what has become a tradition on my albums, including a song in English or Norwegian.
”Lottas (Little Bird)” is from the music I made for the German film adaptation of the fairy tale about Hans and Greta. Only two of the lyrics on this album are my own. I have chosen to use lyrics by Sámi authors Karen Anne Buljo and Rauni Magga Lukkari – with the exception of two songs. In these songs I sing in a language which doesn’t really exist, but is still there someplace deep inside of me. Or maybe it’s a language which comes from the outside…and is just passing through me.
Karen Anne Buljo’s lyrics take their content from Sámi mythology. She writes about Uldda nieida – the daughter of the creatures who live beneath the ground, who under-estimated the female shamans. And about the proud Afruvva, who went her own ways, and was the coastal Sámi equivalent of Uldda Nieida. Uldda Nieida was a dream of a woman, who could bewitch men for eternity if they didn’t know the magic formulas which could free them from her embrace. I have learned incredible amounts from Karen Anna Buljo this past year, and have even more insight into my cultural heritage, which continues to fascinate me.
In ”Diamantta Spaillit (Reindeer of diamond)” she masterly mixes elements from the old, traditional world, with indigenous peoples, actually all peoples, harsh reality when confronted with the greed and the constant hunger for more. In this song I hear a sorrow. A sorrow over these powers which seem impossible to stop.
Rauni Magga Lukkari is a master at describing loves many forms, between two people, to the magnitude in our rich animal world. But also at describing our harsh, contrasting nature. For me it is a pleasure to sing these women’s lyrics. They are an integral part of preserving the wealth and the finer nuances of the Sámi language.
This time I also wanted to explore new grounds musically, to bring out new sides of my voice. I invited Georg Buljo – who collaborates as a guitarist – to write three of the melodies. Svein Schultz has also contributed with some melodies, as well as improvising several melodies with me.
SVEIN SCHULTZ, producer
”Idjagiedas” is an album with many new elements. While as previous albums have emphasized long stretches and atmospheres, the focus is now also on the melodies. On the melody itself and on Mari’s voice, which carries more of the whole expression.
Mari explores new ways of singing, and continually challenges her voice. She has carried it in her for a long time, but has never shown it as well as on this album.
She has also been very open and dared use new elements, and create atmospheres.
In a way everything is allowed, as long as they have a positive effect on Mari’s identity as an artist. This has resulted in the use of ethnic instruments from all around the world, but they are used in our way. We have continually searched for the sound and sounds for the songs. The new global instruments – the electronical - are used in exciting and new contexts. For Mari it’s been exciting to stretch boundaries in relation to the electronic instruments. This gives us two elements which apparently are far apart: The indigenous joik and the modern electronical instruments.
But maybe they’re not that far apart, after all…
MARI BOINE – FACTS
Born on November 8th 1956 in Gámehisnjárga by Karasjok.
Educated teacher from the Regional College in Alta.
Full-time musician since 1985.
Her debut album ”Jaskatvuoda manna” came in 1985, her breakthrough came in 1989 with ”Gula Gula” .
1985: Jaskatvuođa maŋŋá (Etter Stillheten)
1989: Gula Gula (Hør stammødrenes stemme)
1991: Salmer på veien hjem (With Ole Paus and Kari Bremnes)
1992: Møte i Moskva (With the band Allians)
1993: Goaskinviellja (Ørnebror)
1994: Leahkastin (Unfolding)
1996: Eallin (Live)
1998: Bálvvoslatnja (Room of worship)
2001: Ođđa hámis (Remixed)
2002: Gávcci jahkejuogu (Eigth Seasons)
2006: Idjagieđas (In the hand of the night)
Mari has also collaborated with a number of different artists, among them Peter Gabriel on “One World – One Voice” (1990) and Jan Garbarek in 1991/1992.
She has written commissioned works for both Vossajazz (1994) and Telemarksfestivalen (2005).
She composed the music to, and had the only role in, Mona J. Hoels short film “Vuolgge mu mielde bassivárrái” (Bli med meg til det hellige fjell) (1995).
Has written the music for the German film adaptation of the Hans and Greta fairytale (2005).
Has received a number of awards, distinctions and grants. Among them several Spellemann awards, the Ole Vig award, Nordic Sámi Council’s Honorary Award, Nordic Council’s Music Award, the Norwegian Audio-Visual Fund’s large launching grant
Musicians on ”Idjagieđas”
Producer, composer, base, vocals, keyboard, programming.
Freelance musician for many years, has written commissioned works, theatre music, songwriter. Collaborated with a number of Norwegian artists.
Svein is from Hamarøy, lives and works in Kautokeino/Oslo
Guitar, vocals, composer
Has also produced albums for Niko Valkeapää and Lars Bremnes, as well as playing and touring with them. Georg has played in Locomotives, and with among others with Kari Bremnes, Silje Nergaard, Jan Eggum and Ailo Gaup. Has also composed music for film, theatre, dance productions and sound books.
Georg is from Hamar and lives in Oslo.
OLE JØRN MYKLEBUST
Trumpet, vocals, samples, electronics.
Is also a member of Geir Lysne Listening Ensemble, and has worked with artists such as Unni Wilhelmsen and Julie Dahle Asgård. Composer and arranger.
Ole Jørn is from Eidsdal in Sunnmøre.
PETER BADEN (alias Peterb.)
Production, programming of rhythmical elements and harmonious textures and effects, percussion, drums, marimba, vocals.
Also works with Hanne Hukkelberg, Sternklang, Chillinuts, Shockbreker Service and Solveig Kringlebotn.
Peter is from Oslo.
JUAN CARLOS ZAMATA QUISPE
Peruvian instruments such as the quena, flutes, chilliador and charango. In addition North American (Native) and Asian flutes, rhythmical string instruments and bouzouki, mandolin, violin and vocals.
Carlos is from the Andes Mountains in Peru, and has played with Mari since 1988.
Has played with a number of diverse artists in Norway and abroad, from Boine to Paperboys. Has also worked with Sámi theatre and toured the Nordic countries.
Gunnar is from Kristiansand
Has previously played with ComboNations and Sejnally Dub Orchestra.
Sanjally is originally from Gambia, and lives in Bergen.
MALIKA MAKOUF RASMUSSEN
Gimbre, songwriter (Havfruen).
Is also a member of Women’s Voice, and has just released a solo album ”Exit Cairo” (where Boine guests on vocals).
Malika is from Oslo and Algeria.
Is also a member of Women’s Voice, and has her own project called Band Rain.
Sibusisiwe lives and works in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Guitar, world stick, songwriter (”Big Medicine”).
Ross is originally from the US, but now lives in Kongsvinger.
Other collaborators are Terje Rypdal (guitar), Anitta Suikkari (vocals), Marry Sarre (vocals) and Kenneth Ekornes (percussion).