Submitted by Stacey Breitberg on

“Joik [pronounced “yoik”] knows no end; joik goes on forever!” were the words of Sámi performer Iŋgor Ántte Áilu Gaup, better known by his stage name, Ailloš. On April 12 and 13th, Ailloš and fellow members of the Sámi National Theater Beaivváš performed "Juoiggas!" to sold out crowds at the National Nordic Museum in Seattle. The event was co-sponsored by the Department of Scandinavian Studies and the Pacific Sámi Searvi. In addition to Ailloš the performance starred actors and joikers Mary Sarre, Nils Henrik Buljo, and Egil Keskitalo, and musicians Roger Ludvigsen, Svein Schultz, and Jonas Karlsen.

"Juoiggas" was a mix of drama, singing, and joiking. "To joik" is a separate verb in Sámi from "to sing." It is a traditional form of singing in which one does not sing about a subject, but one invokes the subject through the song, as a kind of musical portraiture. One can therefore "joik" specific people, places, animals etc.

An important theme of the performance was reclamation. As an Indigenous art form, joik has been denigrated and misrepresented by Norwegians, Swedes, and Finns. "Juoiggas" was a joyful celebration of the diversity of the art form as well as a reflection on the history of the art form's representation to outsiders by ethnomusicologists. 

"Juoiggas" delivered a wide spectrum of joiks bookended by dramatic skits; some sacred, some bawdy. Some were presented traditionally acapella, others were presented with rock and roll accompaniment or a country swing, Visual projections livened the set, and projected subtitles translated the lyrical meanings to audiences, though performer Ailloš demonstrated the cross-linguistic versatility of joik by joiking in both Sámi and in English. He also demonstrated the versatility of joik through time, joiking his daughter when she was a newborn, and then joiking her again as an adult.

Throughout the entire performance was an exuberance of joy. The performers also joiked a few animals that all Seattleites are familiar with: the crow and the hare (We'll have to ask them to joik the squirrel next time). Thank you Sámi National Theater Beaivváš for your visit!

To hear an example of joik and to learn more about its history, check out Crossing North 9: See the Woman. Crossing North is available wherever podcasts are.

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