in Reviews

Distinctive dreamscapes

by Simon Broughton

“Ánnámáret is part of a powerful new force in Sámi music and identity.”

Sámi singer Ánnámáret was born Anna Näkkäläjärvi-Länsman to a Sámi father and Finnish mother and lives as far north as you can go in Finland, right on the Norwegian border. She takes us into the dreamscapes of her third album with the opening Sirdda [Transition]. It’s a swirling, ethereal soundworld featuring her electronically treated voice, until she’s joined a couple of minutes in by the bowed strings of Ilkka Heinonen’s jouhikko, sounding almost like a Persian kamancheh, lyrical with an edgy bite. With the electronics by Turkka Inkilä, we do feel like we’ve entered another world.

Nuppi bealde [On the Other Side] ventures into the world of Sámi mythology, starting with bells in a heavenly world, with a playful, childlike melody which is taken up by the jouhikko and brings us down to reality on earth, the voice turning masculine and into a darker more violent underworld. What’s memorable here is the way Ánnámáret uses her voice more as an instrumental texture, rather than singing lyrics.

The voice and the yoik are of course central to Sámi music – and yoiks are often syllables without meaning, although Ánnámáret also uses some short lyrics as well. Aski [Shelter] talks enigmatically about asking previously unasked questions from the comfort of a shelter. The music is lyrical and confident, with shakuhachi flute like a shaft of sunlight. The Dološ niegut [Ancient Dreams] that follow are clearly powerful ones, rendered in guttural yoiks that sound like they might draw blood.

Ánnámáret has drawn influence from family yoiks of her grandfather and others for this album, although she doesn’t quote them directly because they are so personal. “Past generations are very important to Sámi people,” she said in a recent article in FMQ. “Discovering your own family’s yoiks helps to understand the whole Sámi worldview.”

With the anthemic penultimate song, Johtit ain [Still migrating], the album reaches a climax before settling down to a calmer close with the title track inspired by family yoiks. Ánnámáret is part of a powerful new force in Sámi music and identity which treads a crucial line between tradition and modernity. 

Ánnámáret: Nieguid duovdagat 

Ánnámáret (yoik)
Ilkka Heinonen (jouhikko)
Turkka Inkilä (live electronics and shakuhachi)

Uksi Productions, 2021

Ánnámáret's Nieguid duovdagat will be released on 6 February 2021, the Sámi National Day. The album release concert will be streamed the same day at 8 pm (EET) on Ánnámáret’s YouTube channel. Post-concert there will be a Q&A online session with Ánnámáret and Songlines’ editor-in-chief, FMQ's contributor Simon Broughton at 8.45 pm (EET).