Ande Somby and Rosynka, Boknakaran, moya pa tvoja (Steinbeat, 2001)

Originally Appeared in The Green Man Review.

This live CD, from a joint concert project, formed by Somby and these two talented groups, has me listening! Definitely listening now! Good gosh, it’s amazing!

‘Moja pa tvoja’ is named (and I’ll quote from the liner notes here) for “a greeting in Russian-Norwegian, a pidgin language spoken in the Pomor trade along the coast of Northern Norway about 1750-1920.” It is most appropriate as a title for the concert and CD, since the songs include such themes as “Russian-Norwegian fraternity in a Karelian village by the sweet sea” and styles range from Yoik to “verses in Russian and Sami, inspired by [originally]…Norwegian lyrics”. The artists include Russian vocal ensemble “Rosynka”, singing “a capella songs from Russian-Karelian tradition”, Ánde Somby, an interpreter of Sámi joik (Yoik) “who also composes new ones,” and Boknakaran, from Tromse, Norway — “a trad group whose upbeat website one should definitely visit.”

Somby has an intriguing page here on yoik that includes a look at his parents’ Yoik album as well as this explanation of Yoik:

“Yoik is the Sami or Laplandic Way of singing or chanting. There are yoiks for persons, animals and landscapes. The musical modus of yoiks is totally different from what is known in Euro-American music. Some say that yoiks are the oldest musical tradition still alive in Europe.”

Speaking of the liner notes… they’re multilingual and have fascinating photos of the concert. What they lack is an explanation of the instruments that would be extremely helpful for listeners new to these musical traditions. But on to the songs…

What a way to open the album! “Fish & Potatoes” is majestic. The whole ensemble contributes with a force, the perfect level of assertiveness. By the time this is finished, one might suspect that the good stuff was right up front. That’s right, and there’s more to come. The strings croon romantically in “Svjatsosero” (Bonakaran and Rosynka) while the choral work is passionate… almost epic. I couldn’t help it. I just couldn’t. I kept thinking of The Thirteenth Warrior. There were no shouts of “Odin!”, but the language and articulation were as glorious and beautiful.

The White Grouse Yoik (Ande) was my first introduction to Yoik, and it feels like a time when Europe was a place of tribes. It struck me as similar, in some ways, to the Korean pansori opera chant as described in our review of Chunhyang [chunhyang.htm]. “Molodka” and “Gold all that glitters”, like “Svjatsosero”, pushed the Russian and Norwegian vocals into one another like soft relentless lovers. “Brother’s Yoik” has Boknakran providing instrumental accompaniment to Ande Somby’s chant. “Vsje kak lodij givut” is a Russian folk song with Norwegian lullaby wrapped in its arms. Complimentarily, “Dvina” is Norwegian, with a Russian popular song in its embrace.

And then… and then… howling… slow, wolf-voices howling… The song is “The Wolf Yoik+Rosynka”… Ande and Roynka imitating a wolf family. One gets the sense of something shamanistic afoot in the wild. “Da Hoj!” is deliciously raucous with hoots from Rosynka and unusual sound accompaniment by Boknakaran. The whole ensemble joins then in a tribute, “Here’s to Finmark!” They’re evidently having fun, though it wasn’t my cup of tea. This is a restful break, though, that precedes “The Mosquito Yoik” which brings a Swedish bagpipe into the chant. The kazoo-like bagpipe is high and birdlike, fascinating in it strangeness, and comedic, and finds its competition from an even more birdlike yoik. One almost expects the Trashmen to jump out with “B-b-b-bird-bird-bird b-bird’s a winner…”

Roynka is dazzling on its own, performing “Ljon”, a traditional Siberian song, while “The Bread and the Song” is something of a sentimental anthem. If ya like anthems, ok. It didn’t thrill me the way most of the album did. “Oh ty sad”, a sad romantic piece is, similarly, a bit melodramatic. But after all, the album’s gonna be over in a moment. And then, if you’re like me, your fingers will hit play again.

This CD is one you’ll want to have in the car, both because it’ll keep you awake, and because it’s fascinating enough to provide an escape from the vicious banality of traffic. This is traditional music with punch.

You’ll find an article, “Joik and the theory of knowledge“, by the Somby, here, and a homepage here.

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