Thursday, December 8, 2011

the yoik

Something I had never heard of before came out of the car radio today. It caught my attention because it had been banned by the ever-tolerant Christian church. But besides the long-lasting ban on pre-Christian yoiking, which sounds quite like chanting by some American Indians (here's a sample yoik), I found this description of yoiking evocative ... trying with the ineffable stuff of music to evoke or capture or express the true essence of the person or thing that is the subject matter.

The Sami chant, the yoik, traditionally had a dual function. On the one hand, it was, and still remains, the distinctive musical expression of the Sami. The yoik is used "to remember people", to characterize individuals, animals and landscapes. It can be described as a melodic-rhythmic lecture, in which rhythm is paramount and less emphasis is put on the verbal description of the lyrics. The yoiker’s task is to use music and images to create an emotion or atmosphere that then evokes the person, animal or place yoiked. In the pre-Christian religion, the yoik formed an important part of religious ceremonies. In such ceremonies, the shaman added a rhythmic accompaniment to the yoik by beating his drum. This dual function is the reason why some people even today see the yoik as sinful and therefore incompatible with Christian religious life. -- (Emphasis added)
The above is taken from this web site.

Imagine conquering and investing someone else's lands and then, to add insult to injury, banning their music.

To use the term in our own western context, "Yoiks!"


  1. Thank you for posting this!

    It may help to explain why one of my Russian friends claims that the Native American Indian music I once played for her sounds like some of Russian folk music she is familiar with.


    The Sami people have never been large in numbers. Today, it is estimated that there are between 60-80 000 Sami living in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Several criteria are used to determine Saminess: language (i.e. those who speak Sami themselves or have at least great grand parents that did) or ethnic and cultural belonging. Approximately half of all Sami live in Norway.

    Historically, the Sami culture forms part of the Arctic cultural area. These have been the ecological background for Sami hunting and trapping methods, dwellings, means of transport, language, and pre-Christian religion. There are similarities that can be found between the Sami and the cultural traits of other Northern peoples in the Artic. At the same time as there are cultural differences between the Sami’s an indigenous on Greenland, in Siberia and in North America.

  2. BTW -- That bit about "ever-tolerant Christian church" really missed the mark. Ever-Tolerant? Ha!

    It may be that some modern Christian sects are tolerant, but even today that are many that are not. Historically, however many "Christians" have been as fanatical as other religions' fanatics that we rightfully condemn today.

    More exactly in this case, again from SAMITOUR:

    As early as the 17th century the yoik was banned by law. Anyone breaking the law was to be punished severely. The reason the yoik was banned and condemned at this time was that the period saw the beginning of Christian missions among the Sami, and the yoik was seen exclusively as an expression of pre-Christian religion. The yoik thus disappeared from public occasions and fell into disuse in many areas. Where the yoik survived, people took care not to provoke public officials and the Norwegian Church. The yoik has been condemned by the church ever since the Sami converted to Christianity, but it is nevertheless the subject of praise in cultural and political contexts. Today, good yoikers enjoy considerable authority within the Sami community.

  3. Hopi -- The adjective "ever-tolerant" was used ironically. But I suppose it may be hard to see my tongue planted in my cheek.