Indigeneity, Language and Authenticity

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Sofia Jannok – Áhpi

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Sofia Jannok at the release party for her latest CD, Áhpi – May 7th, 2013.

DSC_0076.jpgTuesday’s concert was one of the best ones I’ve been to in well over a year. Sofia is not only a fantastic musician who is successfully using her Saami heritage to create something new, and unique – she’s indie pop and a fresh take on traditional Saami music at once – but she is also incredibly political and her commitment to indigenous rights, decolonisation and the environment is both real and inspiring.

Reading articles about Sofia, one is often led to believe that, by virtue of being an indigenous woman working as a musician, she is automatically some kind of fragile, ethereal nature being – Sweden’s answer to Björk if you wish. The obvious reality, of course, is that she’s not. If anything – that is, if a musician has to represent anyone else but themselves – Sofia represents Sápmi and not the colonial government that occupied our ancestral lands and yesterday’s release party was just one example of how she’s challenging the outsider’s stereotypical view of Saaminess as something – when expressed through music – that fits comfortably with Swedishness in a rather empowering way.

Áhpi is a CD that may seem like an easy listen, but to those who understand the lyrics or take the time to read them, this CD becomes something more, something stronger than your everyday collection of songs.DSC_0145.jpg

A clear example of this came half-way through Sofia’s concert. After having sung one of her more upbeat songs – a song that became the go-to Saami song whenever Swedes talk about the Saami after Sofia appeared in a popular Swedish radio show last summer – Sofia stopped, looked out at the mass of people crammed in front of the stage, most of whom were Saami, and rather matter-of-factly told all of us that, ‘right, enough of that. Time for politics’ and what followed was a  short but powerful call to arms against different types of neocolonial projects in Saebmie, as well as a request aimed at all those who have the right to vote in our upcoming Saami Parliament elections to do so on the 19th of May.

Anyway, Áhpi is all of the things described above – it is a call to arms, it’s indie pop that melts in your ears, think an aural orgasm, and it’s awesomeness all wrapped into one single nice package and I cannot recommend this CD enough.

The four best songs on the album, if you ask me:

  • Viellja jearrá (Brother Asks)
  • Jávrrit juiget (Lakes are Singing)
  • Čuoivvatmiessi (The lightest reindeer calf)
  • Áhpi (Wide as Oceans)
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2 Comments

  1. Zsolt says:

    I’ve just found out about Sofia recently, but got seduced easily – and I’m loving it. Wish I understood the lyrics, although Hungarian and Sámi are related languages, it’s like English and Russian – it’s not natural to understand each other.

    Even though I have hard times with winter, I’m convincing myself that the Sápmi is a must visit.

    Regarding the best songs list, I couldn’t agree more, but I’d switch Viellja jearrá and Jávrrit juiget. 🙂

  2. Shaman Dude says:

    Oddly enough, I found about Sofia as I was trying to lean more about the Sami. I was incredibly sad about their treatment and near-annhilation of their culture. What really enraged me, though, was how Christianism and Imperialism tried to abolish their religion, their ways of life.

    Then I listened to Irene. Wow. I mean, I knew it wasn’t going to be the “Authentic”, “Da Real Thing”, with the studio production and all, but I was like this is The Cocteau Twins meets Uncontacted South American Shaman Amazon. Glossolalia, imitating nature, this is fun.

    Then I listened to Viellja Jearrá and saw the video and I was like damn. Yeah, show them the truth. Stay cool though.

    My new favorite artist, and an excellent album. Great review and I hope the Sami can get more respect.

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