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Rhythm-A-Day Blog for February 6, 2020: Saami People's Day

Posted by Wolf Murphy on

Saami People's Day

The Sami Flag (Wikimedia Commons).
The two half-circles represent the sun and the moon.

Saami National Day is celebrated everywhere the indigenous Saami people live today: Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. February 6 was the first Saami congress held in Trondheim, Norway over 100 years ago.

National Day is celebrated by raising the Saami flag and singing the song of the Saami people. Cultural events including concerts, lectures, art exhibits, outdoor fairs and Saami sports exhibits and competitions are held in some areas.

In Tromsø, Norway, reindeer sprint races are held to determine a world champion for this indigenous sport—right down the main street of the town. By the by, reindeer can race at speeds pushing 60 kilometers per hour! Reindeer is also considered a Saami delicacy, and is often available at the outdoor markets.

Jokkmokk, Sweden, features a famous market that has attracted guests and visitors every winter for more than 400 years. Dog sledding is another competition featured on this day. There is even a seminar on Saami culture and social issues at the Giellagas Institute for Saami studies (University of Oulu) hosted during the week including this holiday.

The Saami culture has a profound tradition of Shamanic practice, deeply connected with nature.

Saami Shaman (Ökologix/Wikimedia Commons)

Saami traditional drumming is primarily Shamanic in nature. I was excited to write about this day as the Saami create amazing drums, often decorated with poignant symbols from Saami mythology/metaphysics:

Sami drum at Siida Museum, Finland.
 (Photo: Manfred Werner—Tsui/Wikimedia Commons)

While I have not been able to find and traditional drumming outside the Shamanic practices, investigating for today's blog leg me to examine numerous versions of the Sámi soga lávlla: The Song of the Sami Family. It is the anthem of the Sámi people. It started as a poem written by Isak Saba, and Arne Sørli composed music for it and it is sung on the Saami People's Day.

The final verse definitely identifies this as a Song of Resistance, as the Saami culture and spirituality have been the target of harsh oppression everywhere they live, although in modern times this is beginning to change.

Our ancestors long ago
Trouble makers did defeat.
Let us, brothers, also resist
Staunchly our oppressors.
Oh, tough kin of the sun’s sons,
Never shall you be subdued
If you heed your golden Saami tongue,
Remember the ancestors' word.
The Saamiland for the Saami!

It is typically a cappella, but I did find one version with some (minimal) percussion; what I found that was extremely interesting to my drummer brain was the same ternary song sung in cycles of 5, 9, and 11 beats! 

So, we are going to use this opportunity to play some simple odd-time rhythms that could accompany the Sámi soga lávlla:

Today's Video Lesson

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