Torgeir Vassvik is a Sápmi singer
Meeting a Sápmi in Russia was a surprise and a real pleasure. I had done a trip to the north of Norway, but in Honnigsvag I had not been able to continue to get to know the ancient culture rooted in the Nordic territory between Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The artist Sápmi Torgeir Vassvik whom I met at the 2nd All-Russian Open Festival “Russian Rozhok” is a Coastal Sápmi because he is originally from Gamvik, an ancient coastal population. Vassvik now lives in Oslo where he recalls his original culture through musical compositions, but from time to time returns to Gamvik to meet the remaining relatives and inspire himself for his new songs.
Animism is the heart of the Sápmi culture and Vassvik declares that the shamanic experience is always present in all he realizes in music.
As Babette Michel says, “the music of Torgeir Vassvik goes beyond all that our ears have ever encountered until now”. A distracted person could interpret Torgeir Vassvik’s music as avant-garde experimental music and instead it is primordial music. Vassvik has the merit of spreading beyond the territory the ancient Joik songs, typical of the Sápmi culture, produced with a wise sound of the throat.
Historically, the relationship with the shamanic culture has played a negative role in the Sápmi people compared to the policy of assimilation to the nations of northern Europe; in the 1950s in schools it was also forbidden to perform Joik compositions. Joik still represents a controversial issue because a large number of Sápmis have renounced their original culture and language to avoid being considered wild or pagan, ceasing to devote themselves to Joik culture. Concretely, politics succeeded in making the Sápmis forget their language and break any cultural link with their social history.
Today Joik is practiced only by a minority and used by singers as a source of inspiration in different styles. Torgeir Vassvik is one of the main performers of the traditional style, known as the “mumbling” style; interpreting the vocalistic animist tradition, Torgeir Vassvik is one of the most innovative Sápmi musicians because he includes in his music sound experiences mixed with Jazz, Folk, Classical and New music.
For a long time, an abandonment of the Sápmi culture was observed due to so many people who had renounced their origin to declare themselves citizens of the Nordic countries and favor assimilation to the nation. In recent years, everything is being done to rediscover the Sápmi culture and there is a return to identifying proud members of the transnational origins between Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. There is now an attempt to rediscover the ancient origins and adapt to the symbolic elements of the Sápmis through the Joik song. This revitalization, is called by academic “Joik renaissance”. For this purpose, the Sápmi publishing houses were also dedicated.
Rocco Turi, Budapest