JOIK or YOIK : Originally, joik referred to only one of several Sami singing styles, but in English the word is often used to refer to all types of traditional Sami vocals.
• LUOHTI, JUOIGGUS – Northern Sami
• VUELIE – South Sami
• VUOLLE – Lule Sami
• LEVD – Eastern Sami (Russia)
In Skandinavian and English language the word joik/yoik refers to the verb “juoigat” which means “to joik/yoik”. From this verb the substantive “joik/yoik” was made. In Sami language the words luohti, vuelie, vuolle and levd are only substantives, – and juoigat is the verb.
And there are more words used in connection to joik. Here are two examples:
DOVDNA – a joik for children (usually more simple melody).
ÁRMME – A lament.
The Sami verb for presenting a joik (e.g. Northern Sami juoigat) is a transitive verb, which is often interpreted as indicating that a joik is not a song about the person or place, but that the joiker is attempting to evoke or depict that person or place through song – one joiks one’s friend, not about one’s friend (similarly to how one doesn’t paint or depict about a flower, but depicts the flower itself). – From wikipedia.
The oldest vocal tradition in Europe
As the Sami culture had no written language in the past, there are no references to how or where joik originated. According to oral traditions, the fairies and elves of the arctic lands gave joiks to the Sámi People. Just Quigstad, who recorded the Sami oral tradition, has documented this legend in several works. Music researchers believe joik is one of the longest-living music traditions in Europe.
The sound of joik is comparable to the traditional chanting of some Native American cultures. There are also features shared with the shamanistic cultures of Siberia, which mimic the sounds of nature. – From Wikipedia
I would also add that joik is comparable to Greenlandic way of using the voice. I think that another description of joiking is that in sound it is in-between song and Mongolian throatsinging.
Part of the daily life
Originally joiks where used in everyday life. It is not until the later years that the joik has been adapted so that it is suitable to perform on a stage.
Originally the Samis would joik impulsively in any occasion. A joik could be a part of telling stories, when alone on the mountain, to the reindeer, or to a beloved one.
- If you have visitors, and you want to tell a story about someone, you could joik that person – or that event.
- You can joik to the memory of deceased relatives or friends.
- Joik your son to give him good self-esteem, and so that he feels loved and seen.
- Joik a friend who you are missing.
- Give a joik to someone you are in love with for flirting purposes.
Variations of joik
There are many different types of joiks. The joiks can be categorized like this:
Animal joiks and sounds, Nature joiks and sounds , Personal joiks, Children joiks, Place joik, Event joiks, Improvised joiks, Ritual joiks.
All joiks aim to give the listener a feeling of what is joiked in such a way that the listener almost can experience that person, animal or place through sound of the joik.
Shamanism and joik
During the Christianization of the Sami, joiking was condemned as sinful. The assimilation policies (Norwegianization and similar) and the views of churches and ecclesiastical movements on joiking as sin have played important roles in its devaluation. One of the reasons that joiking was controversial may be its association with noaidi (Sámi shamans) and pre-Christian mythology rituals, with joiking said to resemble magic spells. In the 1950s, it was forbidden to use joiking in Sami area schools[clarification needed]. In 2014, a parish council discussed “if they should implement a total ban against music other than [church] hymns in the churches in Kautokeino and Maze. The proposal was shot down, but many still wonder why joiking in church is such a controversial issue”.
Despite this suppression, joiking was strongly rooted in the culture and its tradition was maintained. Joiking is still practiced and is used as a source of inspiration. Recently, joiks are sung in two different styles: a traditional style, known as the “mumbling” style; and a modern style sung mostly by young people, and used as an element in contemporary Sami music.From Wikipedia:
Joik can be perceived as an extra name for the person who is joiked. Nature (personality) and characteristics of the person are depicted using rhythm, tact, melody and text. Personal joiks usually describes only positive features of the person. It is perceived as a compliment to hear their own joik, and one becomes happy. When we say we are joiking someone, this is the same as mentioning the person by name. When we joik someone, we refer to this person with a tone or melody name, which is a joik. We do not say that we tell about the person’s name, but we say what the person is called. Therefore, it is not common to say that one is joking about anyone.
It has not been a Sami tradition to joik oneselves. If you give yourself a joik, or joik yourself you will be looked upon as very vain and conceited. Instead it is considered a great gift to receive a joik. It is one of the biggest honors you can be shown. It was common to give joiks as gifts at weddings and other celebrations.
As a child you will be given a joik from relatives when you are born to grow your self esteem, and so that you feel seen and loved. This joik is called Dovdna and is a very simple joik, that the child can easily recognize. Later in life the joik will be adapted to fit better a grown person, or you might get a whole new one.
One person can have many joiks. One for your characteristics and nature, one for what skills you have, another when you where a great friend to someone and so on. So if you have a lot of joiks it means that you are very popular, and rich person (rich in the sense of having many people who care about you).
Dajahusat and personal joiks
Dajahusat are the lyrics in joiks, but far from all joiks have them. Dajahusat in personal joiks can be the name of the person that you are joiking, and a few words to describe what aspect of that person you are joiking. For example, a typical dajahus can describe how pretty he or she is, or that he / she is kind, good at throwing lasso, has beautiful daughters or skilled sons. Dajahusat in other joiks can be small stories, or methaphores. There were also long epic joiks or narrative joiks – that could tell a whole life story or the story of a “siida” (Sami settlement unit) through generations.
“Sami people feel that all people should have a joik. A joik is like a friend. When you are alone in the forest, and you remember a friend, and “fetch” his joik will get you in a good mood. Our ancestors made the joiks according to the human – according to their nature. When the person is quick and active then the joik is fast. Someone who is not that fast has a slow yolk. The dajahusat in the joik are to make that uplift that person. The words will show what is unique to that person. Even if you have not always done only good, you are still unique. Joik is for me the most precious thing a human can have”, says Ándaras Ànde.
Alf Issát says: “I only know of joik in the world that works in this way that it belongs to the person you are joiking. Elsewise it is always like that that when the name follows the poem or song, then it belongs to who has made it.”
Freely translated from the book “Dajahusat” by Nils Jernsletten (1976)
The person joiks are considered very personal and sometimes even private and intimate. When joiking a person in public, like we do nowadays in concerts and online, with thousands of listeners it can feel overwhelming for that person who is joiked. That person might feel uncomfortable with the fact that his/her personality/personal history is made public. That is why it is important to ask the person you are joiking if they want their personal joik – thus themselves to be exposed in that manner. Not everyone wants their privat life in public.
And like Alf Issát says: According to Sami tradition, the joik of a person belongs to that person who is joiked, not the one who is joiking it.
If the Sami people would make decisions of who should get paid when a joik is performed on a stage then the money would go to what is joiked. If someone joiks “Deanu Máijjá” on a concert then she – “Deanu Máijja” would get paid, not (only) the joiker.
This also has to do with the Sami world view. According to Sami belief the joik comes to you. It can come to anyone. No-one creates it in a modern sense of composition. When a joik comes to you you are joiking that person or thing. You as a joiker did not create that thing, you are a medium – messenger for what already excist. As a joiker you cannot take the credit for “Deanu Maijjá” being such a beautiful person that everybody falls in love with just by hearing her joik, and wants to learn it, and hear it again and again. If the joik becomes popular its because “Deanu Máijja” is such a beautiful person – not because of the “composer”. More simply explained: the message is more important then the messenger.
The book “Dajahusat” was written in 1976. Since then the Samis who work as musicians also have started to claim ownership to personal joiks they have performed. There are occasions though where Sami artists have to stop joiking certain people in public, because the person has requested so.
In the past, it was usual to use joik for flirting. Then it was common for popular girls to get a joik as a gift from boys who liked them, and then other boys learned these joikes and joiked them at markets and other events. It was important to learn the yoik of a girl or boy you liked or fell in love with. Elements of this “yoke flirting phenomenon” still exist.
A joik usually describes only the positive aspects of a person, and can be compared to a compliment. For example, a typical dajahus can describe how pretty he or she is, or that he / she is kind, good at throwing lasso, has beautiful daughters or skilled sons. A person is often happy to hear their own joik when others are joiking it.
When I discovered joik
Even though I grew up in Karasjok, which is considered a Sami town, I did not learn to joik as a child. I never heard joiking at home or close relatives joiking. I thought that joiking only was for the reindeer-herding Samis. I did not hear my aunts, uncle and grandmother joik until I was way past 20 years old. I think part of the reason for that is because we lived in the town. And in the towns it was easier to control and punish people who did any of the outlawed things in Sami culture (which was most of it). Reindeer-herders are traveling all the time, and hard to control what they do on the tundras, and in that sense they could joik all they wanted without getting punished.
It was not until I had been touring a while in Europe with my Sami songs, and repeatedly got the question why I didn’t joik more, that I started looking into what joiking really is. And people in Europe where right! I DO have the right to joik! Because I am Sami! I SHOULD joik!
A year or so before I released my third album “Eamiritni-Rimeborn” (2014) I started my quest on learning joik. From then on many things have changed in my world view.
Because learning joik is not the same as learning a new sining-technique. It is to learn about culture, worldview, traditions, rituals and sami life itself. The very act of joiking connected me to our Sami heritage, history and tradition in a new and unexpected way.
When I started to explore joiking and understood what it truly was, I found that it was impossible to joik something I am not connected to in some form. Therefore it falls natural to joik things you love; mountains, lakes, animals, people, events and so on.
The first joik I ever gifted anyone was to my niece Enya. This was the first time I experienced the nature of personal joiks. I gave it to her as a gift on her baptizing ceremony in Karasjok. After that I joiked her every time I saw her. It was an overwhelming experience to see her reaction when I joiked her. I could see how it affected her in a deep way, – I could she how loved it made her feel by the way she smiled in her timid way, and it made me so happy it brought tears to my eyes every time. To speak any words of love where not necessary at all.
Karl Tirén´s phonograph cylinders.
Karl Tirén’s phonograph cylinders recordings are the first recordings of joik, in some cases with biographical information.
Karl Tirén’s first contact with the joik came through a meeting with Lars Erik Granström at the fiddler’s contest in Luleå in 1909. After this, Karl Tirén was caught – collection, exploration and dissemination of knowledge regarding Sami culture and its music would follow him for the rest of his life.
Later that year, Tirén met the craftswoman Maria Persson. She was to be his main informant and guide within Sami joik culture, a milieu that few outsiders had previously had access to.
“Lapponia” by Johannes Schefferus
The first mention of joik is in the book “Lapponia” (1673) by Johannes Schefferus. Schefferus was a German professor, and Olaus Sirma was his Sámi informant. Sirma got educated and wrote down a few poems from his hometown Kemi. They where joiks with dajahusat – words. The man in one of the poems was asking his reindeer to look into her beloved eyes to see if she still wants him after he had been away for so long, and a pray to the mountain to let the travel go smoothly to his beloved.
When released in 1673 “Lapponia” was an instant success in Europe because of Olaus Sirmas joiks. “Lapponia” was translated to German, Dutch and English. Poets all over Europe wrote poems inspired by this. In a way these joiks started the romanic epoch in Europe.
That Sami joiks could have such effect in whole of Europe is not something given attention in history books, or in the school system, probably because the joik was persecuted all over Sápmi during the same time.
The paradox in this, I would say is is that the upper class in for example Paris enjoyed joiks, and joik inspired poetry, while the Sámis where persecuted for practicing joik.
Source 20.03.2019: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joik
Freely translated from the book “Dajahusat” by Nils Jernsletten (1976)
Samernas tid, SVT tv-series : https://urplay.se/serie/203240-samernas-tid
Nordligefolk.no : http://nordligefolk.no/hjem-2/kunst-musikk-litteratur/joik-2/?lang=sa