Sami joik singer Ánde Somby (51, Norway) performed a version of the “Wolf joik” at Malcolm McLarens funeral in London April 22nd. About 400 people attended the closed ceremony at One Marleybone Curch in London.
McLaren, sometimes called “The Godfather of Punk”, invented and managed the popular punk band The Sex Pistols. He managed and produced many other bands before and after the Pistols, and he worked with film, visual art and fashion, his main point of entry to pop culture. He had a rare grip on media spin and a keen sense for picking out important undercurrents in culture.
“Bob Geldof jumped in his seat when I started my wolf joik. It is quite moving once it gets started.” Somby told Dagbladet.
A joik is not a song but a resonant melodic phrase, sung unaccompanied and repeated through various iterations with no fixed beginning or end. Traditionally utilised to induce a trance state in Sami shamans, it is a music essentially animist in nature. Joiks are not sung about something but considered a rhythmic signifier of the actual thing itself, be it a place, an event, a family member, associate or an animal, especially reindeer.
“My wolf joik fitted the circumstances quite well, as Malcolm McLaren was, in the best sense of the word, a wolf-like artist.” Somby said.
Somby was personally invited by Vivienne Westwood and McLarens son Joseph Corré to perform in the church ceremony before McLarens coffin was paraded through London to High Gate Cemetery.
Rebels WITH a cause
Though no longer politically active, Ánde Somby once fronted young Sami activists “Samefront” (Sami Front) or ČSV for an interview with national newspaper VG in 1976. The letters ČSV (meaning “show Sami strength”) were understood in the press at the time to be an equivalent to AIM (American Indian Movement).
Official Norway had nearly wiped out Sami culture and treated Sami people like second-rate citizens, much like the authorities in the United States and Canada did to the American Indians and Inuits, but in the seventies a new cultural awareness was growing. Fuelled by the general civil rights movement of the late sixties and early seventies, but no doubt also by the energy of punk, young Samis picked up forbidden and forgotten cultural traditions and demanded actual rights to decide over their land. This movement culminated in the Alta Dam demonstrations 1979-81 where the whole norwegian environmental movement joined them and united over a common cause. The demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience were widely publicized and for the first time since the German occupation during World War II, Norwegians were arrested charged with violating laws “against rioting”. The hunger strikers in front of the parliament in the capital included Ándes brother Niillas Somby. People from all over Norway, including prominent intellectual figures, chained themselves to construction equipment in Alta to halt the proceedings. The demonstrations put the rights of Sami people to their lands on the national political agenda, even if the supreme court finally ruled the development of the Alta River legal in 1982 and construction started again.
When all was lost after the supreme court ruling, Niillas Somby and two other men decided to sabotage the construction of the dam with dynamite, but a faulty timing device set off the dynamite prematurely. Niillas Somby lost his arm and damaged an eye, and was initially charged with homicidal arson looking at a penalty of up to 21 years, even though the sabotage was to an uninhabited construction site. On leave from prison he escaped to Canada where he was adopted by the Nuxalk Nation in British Columbia. He was expelled from Canada in 1985 to serve a five month sentence for the sabotage.
Fittingly, McLarens final words were said to be “Free Leonard Peltier”. Leonard Peltier (born September 12, 1944) is an American activist and member of the American Indian Movement (AIM) who was convicted and sentenced in 1977 to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment for the murder of two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents during a 1975 shootout on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.