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Airdate: Jan 12, 2018
Scientist: Annuka Hirvasvuopio

Song Memories

Song Memories
For the Sami people of Scandinavia, yoiking can be a touchstone to the past.

Yoiks - Memories

Music; Ambience: Yoik singing

For centuries, the nomadic Sami people have tended reindeer herds across Scandinavia. For much of that time, the Sami have celebrated the important people in their lives by performing unique vocal portraits, known as Yoiks. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. A yoik can sometimes celebrate an object or place . . . more often, it's composed to honor a person - usually someone close to the singer. Annukka Hirvasvuopio is a Sami musician from Tampere, Finland. She says the sound of the yoik itself is meant to convey something unique about the essence of its subject.

Hirvasvoupio: I try to think what kind of person he or she is. I have one yoik what tells about my friend called Nomme and she's a very happy, and a very joyful person, and she's like a squirrel. She's very easy to yoik because she's so lively - and she's always laughing - and for me, that's very easy to yoik.

Among the Sami, yoiks are sung to honor the dead. They can also help keep alive the memory of a loved one who's far away.

Hirvasvoupio: Yoiking is a way of remembering. Um, because always when I am yoiking, for example my grandfather's yoik - he was very important to me - and when I'm yoiking his yoik, I am remembering him. As long as his yoik is alive, he stays alive in my mind and in my family's mind.

Annuka and other musicians are learning yoiks from Sami elders, hoping to someday pass the tradition along to their own children. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.