Wimme Saari, born in 1959 in Kelottijärvi in the northwestern part of Finnish Sámiland, is a modern yoik singer. Yoik is traditional Sámi music - an archaic mode of unaccompanied solo singing which is uncannily similar to certain Native American music. It is found all over the vast Sámiland from the northern to central regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and to the eastern tip of the Kola Peninsula in Russia. There are three musical dialects in yoik. Wimme represents the North Sámi Luohti tradition, which is the most widely known genre of Sámi music. Luohti has two unique musical features: it makes use of a pentatonic scale with no half tones and it always has a specific subject, a person or an animal, which it describes in music. Wimme creates sweeping vocal soundscapes that can be inspired by a boiling spring, the state of Texas, or the full moon.
Wimme is a modern interpreter of the Sámi yoik, combining colorful grittiness of traditional yoiking elements with original improvisations. In the last few decades yoik in general has undergone some changes; in fact Wimme's yoiking could be called "free yoik." In his yoik, he constructs intense, clear melodic arches and stretches his voice from a sweet falsetto to a grave baritone. But the old yoik is still there: Wimme has recaptured the essence of the ancient yoik, and even the clever voice technique of the animal yoiks.
The art of yoiking has traditionally been transferred through generations of oral tradition, but Wimme learned the tradition in a more modern way:
"My yoiking has some elements of the old style yoiking, such as the voice technique and the throat technique. I can also do some traditional yoiks, but accompaniment doesn't quite suit them. When I yoik and the boys play I have to do something new. Colors and patterns are emerging in my mind - I have to let them guide me. In my home area people say that I have created a new style. Young people, of course, like it most, but even people in their 50s have come to me to thank me."
"I started working at the Finnish Broadcasting Company in '86. There I found some tapes including tapes of my uncle's yoiking. With the help of those tapes I learned some of the old tradition. Although my mother comes from an old yoiking family, the direct connection from one generation to another had already been broken. Due to religious fundamentalism there was no yoiking at home. In border areas like ours, where there are a lot of people other than Sámi folks, yoiking has had a tendency to vanish, but in Sámi areas like Kautokeino, naturally it has been able to survive better."
The deeply emotional yoik vocals are the center around which the ambient music floats. The vocals are recorded true to the real spirit of the yoik: every vocal part is reproduced "as is" - unaltered, strictly not edited or sampled. The yoik comes first and the musical instruments provide the coloring and underlining of the themes. Tapani Rinne and Jari Kokkonen, two main musicians from Finnish techno jazz band RinneRadio, and Matti Wallenius on acoustic string instruments, give shape and depth to Wimme's yoiks. Fuzzy synthesizers, strings, alto sax, keyboards and animal samples swirl in and around Wimme's yoiks creating an eerie, spiritual and atmospheric effect. RinneRadio also have their own records on Finland's Rockadillo Records and Tapani Rinne of the band produced both Wimme and Gierran. All Music Guide on RinneRadio: "RinneRadio incorporate the improvisation and intelligence of jazz while maintaining the energy and futuristic vision of electronic music."
Wimme's profile has steadily become higher and his fame wider. In addition to his solo work, he contributed his unique voice to albums by artists like Hector Zazou (Songs from the Cold Seas), Hedningarna (Trä and Hippjokk - both on NorthSide), Finnish techno-jazz band RinneRadio and the BMG-released compilation Finnish-Ambient Techno Chant.
1995: Wimme Rockadillo (Finland) ZENCD 2043, NorthSide (US) NSD 6003
1996: Texas EP, Rockadillo (Finland) ZENSICD 1039
1997: Gierran Rockadillo (Finland) ZENCD 2055, NorthSide (US) NSD 6023
2000: Cugu Rockadillo (Finland) ZENCD 2067, NorthSide (US) NSD 6048
2003: Bárru Rockadillo (Finland) ZENCD 2081, NorthSide (US) NSD 6074
(stress on the first syllable)
Wimme "Veehm-meh" Saari "Sah-ree"
For more information on the Sámi go to www.lysator.liu.se/nordic/scn/faq23.html
The word on Wimme
- "...the animistic voice is enriched by snowfall keyboards, hearty woodwinds and seductive dance beats...Cugu is colorful and honest fusion, the sounds of a birthright reborn." - David Fricke, Rolling Stone
- "Wimme is a star, no doubt about it, someone whose gift goes beyond genre...one of the most perfect fusions yet." - Rhythm Music
- 2000 Records 2 Die 4: "Couple this shamanistic chant style with a wide instrumental dynamic ranging from pounding drums and electronic bass to frosty ambient sketches of acoustic sound, and you've got a solid set of tunes that grab you by the ears and keep you locked in place." - Stereophile (re Gierran)
- "These songs are achingly beautiful, starkly ornamented. This is how modern folk music should sound." - College Media Journal (CMJ)
- "While Wimme finds inspiration in the sounds of airplane propellers and outboard motors, his clear melodic improvisation enchants audiences both young and old." - Public Radio International (PRI) "The World"
- "From the first notes, this is something special and adventurous...this is an album that takes chances, and they all pay off beautifully." - amazon.com
- "The yoiking of Wimme is nestled into an electronic landscape of Arctic tundra and star-woven sky." - Rootsworld
- "A sound that dwells deep in the heart of some foreboding natural environment." - Exposé
- "This is an outstanding record (Wimme) that deserves widespread recognition." - New Age Music Journal
- "What warrants the attention of someone completely unfamiliar (with yoiking) is that Wimme is an intriguing poem woven of traditional and improvised yoiks with modern day tone sculpting and sound effects processing whose bottom line is a naturalist's dose of faraway sonic geography." - Musica Eclectica
© 2003 East Side, Inc.