Sámi music takes many forms, and Áŝŝu's debut release is informed by a lot of influences while remaining true to the north.
This collection of eleven tracks, primarily traditional in origin, sounds like a merger of the music of the northern Sámi, the joik, with elements seemingly transplanted from the Sahara.
Harald Skullerud, the Norwegian percussionist, and Olav Torget, a strikingly innovative guitarist, team up with Ulla Pirttijärvi, the famed Sami artist, and co-creator of Solju, to create a soundscape which very much rocks the joik, or traditional Sámi song.
Fans of Tinariwen and Boubacar Traoré might well recognize some of the stylings of Torget, who along with Skullerud has spent time in Mali and Senegal - and have a history of bringing Norwegian and West African music together. No surprise. If it wasn't for the inimitable vocal style, more like a yodel than typical "singing" it would be easy to place this disc a couple of thousand kilometers south of its place of origin.
Pirttjärvi sets out to tell a tale, beginning with the moody,unforgettable "Sáivui," a joik about a lake which has two bottoms, and/or the posthumous spirit world, and holds your attention with "Basejávr-Hansa" the tale of a reindeer herder, with its hot,Tinariwen-like licks interspersed with the north country joik. Although it is acoustic, Torget, Skullerud and Pirttjärvi really rock this one.
"Ealu Čohkken" is a joik written by Pirtttjärvi's late husband, Jari-Heikki Länsman, to whom the disc is dedicated. It describes his daily life as a reindeer herder.
"Villeŝ Heaika" is the single which definitely has a "Boubacar" feel to it, it's somewhat more acoustic and simpler than many of the tracks.
The title song tells us about the importance of fire in Sami culture.
"Jođedettiin" is another with a very folky, African sound. It combines the music of three Sami villages, Utsjoki, Karasjok and Kautokeino.
Áŝŝu is an innovative, expressive and very effective music concept, that one might not expect to work quite as well as it does. I have to credit Torget and Skullerud for the mix and production. They get it completely right. -David Cox
Find the artists online.