SÁME JIENA – The Karl Tirén Collection of Sami Joik: The February 1913 Journey

Lars-Erik Granström, Erik Mattias Nilsson, Erik Bror Sjulsson, Eva Maria Olofsson, Nils Petter Stenberg, Anders Larsson, Maria Stenberg, Anna Stenlund, Sara Olofsson, Lars Oskar Stenvall, Maria Sivertsson, Brita Kajsa Eriksson, Per Persson, Maria Persson, Gunilla Jonsson, Sara Enarsson, Anna Nilsson Lasko, Greta Johansson, Lars Nilsson Ruong, Anna Greta Fjällman, Paul Norsa, Brita Gustafsson, Anders Johansson, Elsa Brita Fjällman, Greta Persson, Elsa Kristina Gustafsson

Marking the Sámi National Day of 2019, Caprice Records releases the first of six volumes chronicling a rich collection of field recordings of sámi joik made in northern Sweden during the 1910’s.

In the fall of 1912, musicologist, stationmaster, artist and violin maker Karl Tirén (1869-1955) was offered the loan of a phonograph and pertaining wax cylinders from the Swedish Museum of Natural History’s ethnographic department, with the instruction of recording Sami traditional singing (joik), storytelling and other verbal traditions. The apparatus itself was among the marvels of the modern age, and had been purchased in Berlin just a few years prior. Acquiring Sami objects for the museum’s collection was also part of the ethnographic department’s mission.

The Arvidsjaur and Arjeplog Winter Markets of 1913

Karl Tirén made the first phonograph recordings at the 1913 winter market in Arvidsjaur, which took place on February 7-9. Tirén made the journey by train from Svartbjörnsbyn, probably to Lakaträsk, from where he travelled by sleigh to the destination. In Arvidsjaur, he documented thirteen joikers. After that, he continued his journey to Arjeplog, where another winter market was held. Preparing for this trip, he had made contact with Maria Persson, who graciously let him make the recordings in her own home during the market on Feb 12-15 – that is, in the attic room she rented, to which she invited friends and relatives to joik for the phonograph. Maria Persson herself was a talented joiker, and also lended practical assistance during the recording sessions. During the four days, twelve joikers were documented, among them Maria Persson herself, as well as her sister Greta.

In Arvidsjaur, Tirén had made the acquaintance of the writer and community keeper Karl-Erik Forsslund, who joined Tirén on the journey to Arjeplog. He also participated in the the recording work there, and wrote a long article on his impressions, När lapparna joika (When the Lapps Joik). The article was published on March 2, 1913, in Dagens Nyheter, with Forsslund describing the scene as guests come and go, women and men, old and young, from the tribes of Arjeplog, Luokta, and Semisjaur.

Sami joik

The joik is a particular way of singing, which was developed by the Sami. Besides the voice technique, the main difference between joik and other types of song in the Nordic region is the relation between the song as an aesthetic expression and its content.

Joiking a person or animal

Traditional joiks relate to what has been described as a reference object; this may be a person, an animal or a place. A performer does not joik about a particular person or animal, but rather joiks that person or animal, which is to say, giving them a musical formation in performance, influenced by the joiker’s perception and appreciation of their qualities.

These joik melodies are used by social groups, so that the joiks become a form of musical name for the reference object, which many Sami can recognise and perform at different times. For example, during Karl Tirén’s recording sessions it sometimes occurred that when a new person came into the room, one of the present joikers would begin to perform the ‘personal joik’ of that individual, as a means of welcome and of confirming his or her relationship with them.

Musical characteristics

It is often possible to identify joik through its approach to the voice and timbre – often sung with what has been described as a “pressed” or “pinched” voice, and a rich use of ornaments and glissandi between notes. When joik melodies are represented in musical notation, it is not unusual to see asymmetrical time signatures (for example, 5/8, 7/8 or 11/8), with the melodies often being cyclical, so that the performance may continue for as long as the joiker desires, or the situation allows.

The Swedish verb jojka is derived from the Sami juiogat. In Swedish, the act of joiking has increasingly come to be known as joik. Quite simply, you joik a joik. The Sámi terminology is rather different. In the Northern Sami language, one joiks a luohti (plural luoðit), in Lulesami, a vuolle (plural vuole) and in Southern Sami, a vuelie (plural vuelieh). For the performance of songs and hymns the terms lávla, singing, and lávlut, to sing, are used.

The first joik encounter

Karl Tirén’s first impression of the joik came via meeting Lars Erik Granström at the big Luleå fiddler competition in 1909. After that, Tirén was hooked – collecting, exploring and publicising the Sami musical culture would accompany him for the rest of his life. Later that same year, Tirén met wood turner Maria Persson. She became his most important informant and guide in the Sami joik tradition, something very few had been privy to before.

The first recording trips, to the winter markets in Arvidsjaur and Arjeplog, were made in February 1913. In July that year, Tirén made a collecting journey which he started off by making more phonograph recordings, mostly in Tärnaby in conjunction with a so called Prayer Day. He also chronicled several joiks onto paper by ear.

In January 1914, Tirén visited the winter markets in Lycksele and Åsele, continuing his recording work. The summer of 1914 resulted in recordings from a trip to Jokkmokk and Kvikkjokk in late June, as well as in July in connection to the governor Walter Murray’s meetings with reindeer keeper at various locations. Tirén’s last field recordings with the phonograph were made in October 1915, when he was invited as a guest to Maria Persson’s (afterwards, Persson-Johansson) wedding.

Phonograph – the first recording technology

he phonograph was the first technology for recording, storing and reproducing sound. The device was invented by Thomas Edison in 1877, but only came into wider usage from the 1890s, due to the change from tinfoil to wax cylinder as the audio carrier.

The phonograph is a purely mechanical technology that does not require electricity to operate. Compared to modern recording equipment, a phonograph has neither a microphone, amplifier or speakers. The wax cylinder is usually rotated in place by means of a clockwork spring.

Karl Tirén and the phonograph

Karl Tirén had learned to use a phonograph from Yngve Laurell at the Ethnographic Museum, whom in turn had acquired the technology at the then world-leading research archive on folk music from around the world, the Berliner Phonogramm-Archiv in Berlin.

On Tirén’s recordings you can hear him pre-announcing the next item, according to the Berlin archive model – who will joik, and what will be joiked – indicating the reference tone by blowing a pitch pipe with the then-current standard tuning pitch (A=435 hertz).

From Arvidsjaur to Africa

This mechanical technology, and the fact that it was possible to make the devices fairly small and portable, made the phonograph a popular technology for documenting speech and music during collecting trips and expeditions to remote areas.

Alongside Karl Tirén’s joik recordings, at the winter markets in Arvidsjaur and Arjeplog in 1913, the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm in the 1910s supported several other expeditions to Africa, Australia, South America and Greenland. In addition, the archives of dialects and folklore in Sweden also made ethnographic phonograph recordings during this period.

Recording and playback

Recordings were made by singing or playing into the phonograph’s horn. At the narrow end of the horn is a sound box containing a diaphragm, to which an engraving needle is attached. The diaphragm converts sound waves into movement; following these movements the needle engraves a groove in the rotating wax cylinder.

For listening, the process is reversed by switching to a sound box with a blunt needle. The needle follows the contour of the audio track in the rotating wax cylinder, and the diaphragm converts the movements into sound waves, which are then amplified through the horn.

Difficulty in labelling wax cylinders

Unlike gramophone discs, which had a label in the middle, it was difficult to label wax cylinders. Instead, recordings would be introduced or concluded with a spoken announcement, describing what was on the recording – usually a pre- or post announcement.

Phonographs also had variable speed control – the faster the recording speed, the better the sound quality, but at the cost of a shorter playing time. The correct playback speed was therefore sometimes determined by the sounding of a reference tone.

Transfers of Tirén’s recordings

When phonograph cylinders are transferred today, this is accomplished by the use of more modern, electrical equipment. Karl Tirén’s phonograph recordings have been transferred a few times in recent decades. In 1984, they were transferred onto audiotape by Anders Schilling at the then national audio-visual archive (today the audio-visual collections of the National Library of Sweden). Around 1990, another transfer was made at Swedish Radio by Mats Brolin and Inger Stenman.

About the recordings:
8-9 February 1913, Arvidsjaur’s winter market
12-15 February 1913, Arjeplog’s winter market
Producer och technician: Karl Tirén
Technical assistance: Karl-Erik Forsslund & Maria Persson
Digital restoration: Torbjörn Ivarsson
Cover photo: Narciso Contreras
Graphic design: Jonas André
Translation to Sami: Miliana Baer
Translation to English: Robin McGinley & Erik Hamrefors

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Show playlist

    • 1.
      Till Galtispuoda vid Hornavan Music: Traditional

    • 2.
      Till Stohkevare i Arjeploug nära Pite elf Music: Traditional

    • 3.
      Till Varto fjäll i Arvidsjaur Music: Traditional

    • 4.
      Till renarne - Till sin aflidne man Sivert Olofsson Music: Traditional

    • 5.
      Till sin fader Jonas Nilsson, född 1854 - Till sitt renbetesland (Vestra Kickijaur i Arvidsjaur) Music: Traditional

    • 6.
      Till renarne - Till sin fader Larson Sjulson, Arjeplougs lappby, 72 år gammal Music: Traditional

    • 7.
      Till Sara Olofsson - Till oxrenarne Music: Traditional

    • 8.
      Till renhjorden Music: Traditional

    • 9.
      Till sin morbror Olof Olofsson Music: Traditional

    • 10.
      Till renhjorden - Till Maria Stenberg Music: Traditional

    • 11.
      Till fadern Mattias Stenvall, 88 år gammal - Till svärfadern Anders Svensson, Sandudden, Arjeploug Music: Traditional

    • 12.
      Till fadern Lars Mattsson, Lomträsk - Till sin faster Sara Greta Ramqvist, Lomträsk Music: Traditional

    • 13.
      Till ordningsman Erik Mattias Eriksson, Malmesjaur - Till ordningsman Johan Martin Öberg, Arvidsjaur Music: Traditional

    • 14.
      Till sin fader Sivert Klemmetsson, Arvidsjaur - Till ett fjäll i Arjeploug (nära Maskaur by) Music: Traditional

    • 15.
      Till Lappland Music: Traditional

    • 16.
      Improvisering om Lappland Music: Traditional

    • 17.
      Till Norge - Till sjöfogel Music: Traditional

    • 18.
      Till Anders Jaks (Jox, nomadlapp, död) - Till Lars Nilsson Ruong (känd slöjdare) Music: Traditional

    • 19.
      Till Rappen David (handlande i Rappen by, känd lappvän) - Till Johan Anders Persson (nomadlapp i Semisjaur) - Till Sjul Fjällman (nybyggarlapp i Stepal by, Arjeploug) Music: Traditional

    • 20.
      Till elgen - Till ekorren - Till fjällämmeln Music: Traditional

    • 21.
      Till Sorselelappar - Till skogslappar - Till Jokkmokkslappar Music: Traditional

    • 22.
      Till Anders Persson Gunnars skatteland 'Svaipa' - Till solen Music: Traditional

    • 23.
      Till Per Andersson Gunnar, nomadlapp, död 1901 - Till hans hustru Brita Andersson Music: Traditional

    • 24.
      Till förrenarne - Till renkalvarna Music: Traditional

    • 25.
      Till Abraham Johansson (f.d. kateket) Music: Traditional

    • 26.
      Till Anna Brita Johansson - Till Johan Valfrid Johansson Music: Traditional

    • 27.
      Till fjället Rossne (nära Sulitälma) - Till fjället Saulo Music: Traditional

    • 28.
      Till lappsläkten Gran, Sorsele - Till Inga Steggo, Munka Music: Traditional

    • 29.
      Till Margreta Bengtsson, Njarg - Till Lars Bengtsson (den förres son) Music: Traditional

    • 30.
      Till Per Nilsson Ruong, Mavasvuoma - Till Lars Nilsson Ruong, Mavasvouma Music: Traditional

    • 31.
      Till björnen Music: Traditional

    • 32.
      Till Utsa-Njasja - Till Lars Bengtsson i Njarg Music: Traditional

    • 33.
      Till björnen - Till haren Music: Traditional

    • 34.
      Till oxrenar - Till vajorna Music: Traditional

    • 35.
      Till Sulitälma - Till Tjidtjakfjäll Music: Traditional

    • 36.
      Till renkor och renkalfvar - Till renhjorden Music: Traditional

    • 37.
      Till Tjeggelvas (bättre dubblett) Music: Traditional

    • 38.
      Till sin far Anders Larsson, Norsa - Till farbrodern Nils Pavval Music: Traditional

    • 39.
      Till Nils Mattsson Knorr, Forsudden - Till sin bror Anton Norsa Music: Traditional

    • 40.
      Till Stina Greta Fjällman, Njasa Music: Traditional

    • 41.
      Till Sjul Fjällman - Till sin syster Greta Persson Music: Traditional

    • 42.
      Till renhjorden Music: Traditional

    • 43.
      Till bruden Elsa Kristina Gustavsson, Arjeploug Music: Traditional

    • 44.
      Dödssång (en lapp jojkade på dödsbädden följande) Music: Traditional

    • 45.
      Till Lars Levi Laestadius (vilken som visitator besökte Arjepluog) Music: Traditional

    • 46.
      Till skårro (svärtan) - Till riekpi (räven) Music: Traditional

    • 47.
      Till renkalfvar - Till sin mans hvita körren Music: Traditional

    • 48.
      Till Anders Johansson, Semisjaur - Till hans hustru Anna Maria Music: Traditional

    • 49.
      Till trollkarlen Ana Vuolla (ansågs hafva lefvat hvid tiden för kristendomens införande i Lappland) Music: Traditional

    • 50.
      Till trollkarlen Ana Vuolla Music: Traditional

    • 51.
      Till renbeteslandet norr om Tjäggelvas - Till Gaistasfjäll Music: Traditional

    • 52.
      Till de döda (begrafningsplatsen i Arjeploug) Music: Traditional

    • 53.
      Till Lars Eriksson Steggo i Luokta Music: Traditional

    • 54.
      Till Jonas Gustaf Fjällman, Semisjaur - Till hans hustru Elsa Brita Music: Traditional

    • 55.
      Till Pieljekaisse Music: Traditional

    • 56.
      Till sonen Anders Jonas, hennes renvaktare Music: Traditional

    • 57.
      Till en oceanångare Music: Traditional

    • 58.
      Till Amerika Music: Traditional

    • 59.
      Till Hornavan Music: Traditional

    • 60.
      Till sin mor Greta Stina Mårtensson Music: Traditional

  • Total playtime
Digital // CAP 60016 // Folk/World // Releasedate: 6 February, 2019