Solju: Ođđa áigodat

Renaissance on Thin Ice

Listening Post 175. Nothing is permanently frozen in time. In Sápmi—the Sami homeland that straddles northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia’s Kola Peninsula—this can be both blessing and curse. Ođđa áigodat (New Times) is a vivid record of a people fighting to preserve culture and language, even as development and climate change shrink their wilderness. The album’s authors are Ulla Pirttijärvi and Hildá Länsman, the mother-daughter/singer-songwriter duo from Finland’s far north who make up Solju. Their stories evoke mythology and stark reality, reindeer herds and tundra tents, faith, love and courtship. They also connect poles—a soundscape combining yoik, the traditional Sami song-chant, with contemporary folk-pop; and the timescape of a modern era that incorporates the old. Some passages in their heavenly-earthly collection seem deceptively eternal: Environmental threat is remote in Suoivaniid eatnamii (To the Land of Shadows), a story of Arctic spring, with Pirttijärvi’s deep-breath yoik merging into Länsman’s mellow vocals like snow melting into an incipient stream (video 1). Latitude aside, Muhtumin (Some Day), describing a love dream, reveals an emotional landscape common to all climes (video 2). And Ealloravddas (By the Reindeer Herd) honors “the spirits of the ancient grandmothers” for nature’s continued protection (Soundcloud link 3). It’s the title track that lays out the great test, the song asking—to the urgent strings of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra—how long yoik, herds and memory can hold on (Soundcloud link 4). The Sami have made political and cultural progress over the past two generations and a musical flowering is part their renaissance. But the earth is still changing under their feet. When frozen-in-time isn’t an option, Solju’s recipe of preservation and adaptation—combining wisdom from past and present—may help not only in hardening the ice up north but also inspiring others to fashion a more temperate world. (Bafe’s Factory/Nordic Notes)

Solju band members:
Ulla Pirttijärvi – vocals, yoik
Hildá Länsman – vocals, yoik
Samuli Laiho, programming, synths, guitar, piano, glockenspiel
Teho Majamäki – percussions, vibes, hang

Guest artists:
Czech National Symphony Orchestra – strings
Janne Puurtinen – synth bass, synth
Mikko Neuvonen – throat singing
Paavo Lötjönen – cello

 

Suoivaniid eatnamii/To the Land of Shadows
(from the Sami lyrics)
When spring comes I wake up again/Like a bear coming out of the den
The darkness lasted so long, too long if you ask me/As a shadow I travelled with the moon

As a shadow, I travelled in the land of shadows/I waded in the soft silvery snowdrifts of the darkness
As a shadow, I travelled in the land of shadows/The stars gleam, the northern lights flicker

The frosty polar night is over now/I’ll get my vital force back again
Too long I travelled in a dream, too long if you ask me/As a shadow I travelled with frost in my body

 

Muhtumin/Some Day
I feel strongly about you/I admit with no embarrassment
I might have dreamt all of it up/I don’t know what’s true anymore

Do you believe in these dreams/That imprint themselves in our minds?
I felt your presence in those dreams/We’ll come together some day

Cover my eyes and I see clearly/We haven’t met and yet I know you
This I know deep in my heart/You are my genuine friend

We have lived through many things together/Even if I cannot remember it
I can share this moment with you/I’m used to missing you

 

Ealloravddas/By the Reindeer Herd
I get my provisions from nature/I put up my cone-shaped tent on a birchwood ridge
To live by the herd/To ski from the woods to the hills

We honor and thank/The spirits of the ancient grandmothers
From ancient times/They have guided us to the beginning of life

Let the sacred stone be worshipped/Let it have its sacrifice
To honor the holy spirit/On top of the Áilegas hill

 

Ođđa áigodat/New Times
New thoughts, new times, we have to push on, we have to change
We see gnomes no more, those subterraneans/Because we believe in them no more, and so they disappear

We still hear the yoik, we still hear the herd/How much longer before they disappear?
We fish with nets and rods and lures/And how much longer, someone holds back

If we lose our faith, our visions have power no more
If our memory fails us, we exist no more

New thoughts, new times we have to push on, we have to change
With others talking, seeing for us/How do we manage to tend our environment?

New thoughts, new times, we have to push on, we have to change
Fly, my little bird, sing dear bird, twitter to the world, how our life is

If we lose our faith, our visions have power no more
If our memory fails us, we exist no more

 


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