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Originally, joik referred to only one of several Sami singing styles, but in English the word is often used to refer to all types of traditional Sami singing.
As joik originates from the Sami culture, which is not a text based culture, there are no references to how and where joik originated. According to the oral tradition, the fairies and elves of the arctic land gave yoiks to the Sámi People. Just Quigstad, who recorded the Sami oral tradition, has documented this legend in several works. According to music researchers, joik is one of the longest living music traditions in Europe.
With the Christianization of the Sami, joiking was condemned as sinful. The Norwegianization assimilation policy and the church and ecclesiastical movement's views on joiking as sin have played important roles in the devaluation. In the 1950s, it was forbidden to use joiking in school in Sami areas, and one of the reasons that joiking was controversial may be its association with noaidi and pre-Christian mythology rituals. Meanwhile, joiking was strongly rooted in culture and tradition was maintained. Today joiking is still alive and is also used as a source of inspiration and an element in contemporary Sami music.
Personal and evocative nature
The joik is a unique form of cultural expression for the Sami people in Sápmi. This type of song can be deeply personal or spiritual in nature, often dedicated to a human being, an animal, or a landscape as a personal signature. Improvisation is not unusual. Each joik is meant to reflect a person or place. The Sami verb for presenting a joik (e.g. Northern Sami juoigat) is a transitive verb, which is often interpreted as indicating that a joik is not a song about the person or place, but that the joiker is attempting to evoke or depict that person or place through song - one joiks one's friend, not about one's friend (similarly to how one doesn't paint or depict about a flower, but depicts the flower itself).
Musical and lyrical forms
Traditionally, joiks usually have short lyrics or no lyrics at all. However, there are other forms of joik (in the expanded sense of the word) that have a more epic type of lyrics. Joik is traditionally chanted a cappella, but joiks nowadays may be accompanied by a drum (though not a Sami drum which is used for ceremonial purposes only) or other musical instruments. The tonality of joik is mostly pentatonic, but joikers are at liberty to use any tones they please.
In northern Sami areas, most joiks are personal, that is, tied to a specific person. A joik is often made for a person at the time he or she is born. British Actress Joanna Lumley experienced several joiks during her travel program Joanna Lumley in the Land of the Northern Lights, joining a northern Sami elder. Lumley learned that there appeared not to be a joik of the Northern Lights, and that the Sami do not talk much about them.
There are many different styles within joiking:
- The South Sami joiking called vuollie has today an old-world feel. Since have the development of the music stalled in the face of Christianity. To joik were seen as savage or heathen, and the Sami stopped in a large part to joik.
- Luohti is the North Sami variant and currently the most developed joiking style.
- The East Sami yoiking called leu'dd.
Imitative sounds and shamanism
Some of the Sami people's traditional Noaidi beliefs and practice shared important features with those of some Siberian cultures. Some of their joiks were sung on shamanistic rites, this memory is conserved also in a folklore text (a shaman story). In various cultures of Northern Asia, mimicking sounds from nature can also be present.
Joiking and Christianity
Recently, joiks are sung in two different styles; one of these is sung only by young people. The traditional way is known as the "mumbling" style, and is said to resemble magic spells. In 2014, a parish council discussed "if they should implement a total ban against music other than [church] hymns in the churches in Kautokeino and Maze. The proposal was shot down, but many still wonder why joiking in church is such a controversial issue". The Sámi joik is by some, associated with the pre-Christian religion.
- Frode Fjellheim is a widely known joiker, known from Transjoik (earlier called Jazz Joik Ensemble). Fjellheim contributed the opening song to Disney's holiday blockbuster Frozen, the yoik Eatnamen Vuelie ("Song of the Earth").
- Wimme Saari is one of the world's most renowned Sami artists, whose use of joik is a central factor in his music, and thus identifying him as one of the foremost Sami traditional musicians. He has been collaborating with other artists in recent years and has worked with Swedish trio Hedningarna. Saari mixes some elements of the old style joiking with new sounds.
- Mari Boine from Norway is one of the most popular artists of her Sami culture. She blends elements of joik with other idioms – jazz, rock, world music.
- Nils-Aslak Valkeapää was a well-known modern Sami writer, musician, and artist using joik in his work. He performed at the opening ceremony of the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway.
- Sofia Jannok is a Swedish singer from Gällivare, Sweden. She mainly sings in Sami and does joiking.
- Ánde Somby is a traditional joik artist and a research scholar at the Faculty of Law at the University of Tromsø, who joiks persons, animals and landscapes.
- Although little known outside the folk metal circuit, Jonne Järvelä of the Finnish band Korpiklaani (formerly known by the name Shaman) is proficient at joiking. Both of Shaman's albums were labeled as "joik metal", drawing heavily from Sami music. After the name-change, the band switched to a more conventional folk-metal sound. He was also featured on the Jaktens Tid album of fellow Finnish folk metal band, Finntroll.
- Recently, the Norwegian band Adjágas has been taking joiking around the world.
- Ulla Pirttijärvi mixes traditional joik with more modern musical trends.
- Angelit similarly has evolved their joik musical traditions.
- One track on Antye Greie's record Source Voice is titled Digital Yoik, inspired by her time spent with Sami people in Northern Finland.
- Jon Henrik Fjällgren is a Swedish singer and jojkare, an interpreter of Joik Sami songs and winner of the Swedish Talang Sverige 2014 competition.
- Qvigstad, Just (1929-01-01). Lappiske eventyr og sagn: Lappiske eventyr og sagn fra Lyngen II 09 fra Nordland (in Norwegian). H. Aschehoug & Company [W. Nygaard].
- Tradisjonell klassisk joik - Traditional Classical Sami Yoik - Arbevirolas Luohti Archived 29 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine
- Wimme Saari Shamanistic chant meets modern electronics Archived 5 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- Yoik of the Wind Shamanistic chant meets modern electronics Archived 28 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- "Same etnam". Boreale.konto.itv.se. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
- "Arts and Entertainment". Entertainment.timesonline.vo.uk. Retrieved 2015-11-25. (subscription required)
- Voigt 1966: 296
- Szomjas-Schiffert 1996: 56, 76
- Voigt 1966: 145
- "Vikingatidens och medeltidens musik". Fotevikensmuseum.se. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
- Szomjas-Schiffert 1996: 64
- "Derfor tillates ikke joik i kirka - NRK Troms - Lokale nyheter, TV og radio". Nrk.no. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
-  Archived 26 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine
- "LINE | LINE_SEG02". Lineimprint.com. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
- Ande Somby's yoik-room
- The Sami Yoik - detailed article with audio files.
- Laitinen, Heikki (1994). "The many faces of the yoik".
- Wimme by Harri Römpötti
- Finnish Music Information Center
- Sami Folk Bands & Musicians online
- Joik and the theory of knowledge by Ánde Somby
- DAT artists