Adj�gas the band, consisting of 23-year-old Sara Marielle Gaup and 26-year-old Lawra Somby, are a duo of traditional Sami yoikers from northern Norway. Adj�gas is also the title of their debut album, and it’s just possible that the well-worn phrase “you’ve never heard anything like this before” is an especially apt description for it. Here indeed is something different.
Album and act are named after the Sami term used to describe the state of being between sleep and wakening, when yoiks – memories or essences of people or of things – come to the Sami. The album comprises nine such yoiks, augmented by instrumentation and production from Andreas Mj�s of Norwegian act Jaga Jazzist.
Adj�gas will not be to everyone’s taste; unthinking drivetime music this is not. In places reminiscent of Sigur Rós’s “hopelandic” language, Adj�gas’s yoiking uses the voices of Somby amd Gaup to create sounds and moods rather than actual words, musical phrases rather than songs, and the end result is rarely other than ethereal, soothing and unexpectedly accessible.
Yoiks rarely have obvious beginnings or conclusions. Borne of a cultural tradition thought to trace its origins back through 2,000 years, it is one of Europe’s oldest forms of music. The yoiking on Adj�gas shares sonic ground with the chanting of aboriginal American music to the untrained ear.
This could all prove to be quite impenetrable to anyone not versed in Sami language and music style – which, if we’re honest, is most of the world’s population. Even those who’re aware that the Sami inhabit the area of Scandanavia known as Lappland won’t necessarily be aware of the cultural imperialism these people have endured, particularly at the bidding of the governments of Norway and the former USSR down the years, and the yoik’s place in defending that culture.
Despite concerted attempts from their immediate neighbours to eradicate the Sami, their aural tradition has endured. As late as the 1950s it was illegal to speak Sami in Norwegian schools and the Sami were forced to change their names in order to buy land.
Yet, for all its otherworldliness, it stands up to repeated listens. It’s a musically accessible record, and one that conjures images of merry people warming themselves by a campfire amongst snow-dusted trees, reindeer mooching about nearby. Despite hailing from one of the world’s coldest locations, Adj�gas sounds warm; it is music to calm down to, to take your time over, to listen to individually, with low lighting. Adj�gas have created an album with that rare distinction – a record that is entirely of itself.