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Voices of Nature


By Roi Gal-OR

Last month I contributed and performed in a wonderful storytelling festival in a place called Skellefteå in the far north of the Swedish Lapland.

One of the highlights of the trip for me was meeting with and learning more about the Sami people, the natives of that land and their traditions. It was also the first time in my life I had a chance to hear a live Sami yoik.

A Yoik is a form of traditional Sami singing and one of the oldest living music traditions in Europe. I learnt that when a Sami baby is born, the people around the baby will sing to the baby a yoik – a spiritual tune that captures their impression of the essence of the child. As the child grows older they will be able to change, add and improvise around, their own yoik. Sami people can sing and dedicate a yoik to another person, to an animal or to the landscape around them.

The yoik is sung as an inspiration to evoke or portray that person or place through song – and the singer will yoik the place itself, rather than about it. There are no words but only sounds in a yoik and the man I heard yoiking sang with a voice that was deep, grounded and as ancient as the Earth herself.

It was an incredible experience to listen to him and one that connected me to the present moment and the landscape around me in a way that is hard to express in words (though may be possible if I found a way to Yoik it myself…). I was deeply moved by this ancient practice of connection, uniting people with the land through using one’s own voice to sing a place to life.

I find many links between Yoiking and the experiences I had listening to and speaking from the landscape during the ‘Earth Speaks’ course which I led last year at Emerson College with my colleague Karmit Even Zur.

On the 21st of June 2015 Karmit and I will offer a week long course called ‘Earth Speakers – Earth Keepers’ at Emerson College and I sound here a great call, an ‘invitation Yoik’ to all those who care for the earth and wish to lend their voice to the land to come and join us!

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