Mari Boine to sing in English

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Norway’s indigenous star Sami singer, Mari Boine, is branching into new directions and now plans a new album with English lyrics. She also may start up a new band, as she continues to break musical barriers.

Sami singer Mari Boine singing on the popular "Skavlan" talk show on NRK earlier this spring. PHOTO: Views and News/NRK

Boine, who has won royal decoration and international fame for her clear voice and emotional music from the vast Arctic plateaus of her native Finnmark, is celebrating the first 25 years of her professional career. She released a new double album this spring, Aiggi Askkis, meant to sum up her career so far.

“This is really for those who haven’t dared to get close to my music before,” Boine told newspaper Aftenposten last month. “It was difficult to choose the songs, but the album is a collection of something I had to get out. A long chapter that’s now closed. It feels right, and very good.”

Boine, age 54, blends Sami, Norwegian and other musical cultures in her work. She’s both popular, even revered, and disliked, chosen by Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit to sing at their wedding inside the Oslo Cathedral in 2001, but also meeting resistance on community concert stages around the country.

A concert with Mari Boine can be a deeply moving musical experience. PHOTO: Views and News/NRK

“There are many who say they can’t tolerate my music, and I respect that,” Boine said. “At the same time, there are more who tell me that they’re getting more familiar and closer to my music, which they feel is more accessible.”

If a sold-out concert inside Oslo’s new Opera House in 2009 was any indication, she’s appealing to an increasingly mainstream crowd. Both the crown prince and crown princess were in the audience, along with applauding ticket holders spanning all ages, and the standing ovation was long and loud. Boine’s CDs sold briskly from stands in the lobby.

Boine has made several public appearances in recent weeks, not least on the highly popular Scandinavian talk show Skavlan, which is aired in both Sweden and Norway. She gave an engaging, honest version of how she grew up in a strict Christian home where music and dancing wasn’t allowed and she had to sneak around just to listen to a radio. She and her father later reconciled, she said, long after school officials had praised her talent and urged him to allow it to be nurtured.

She has described herself as a modest and naive young woman who internalized anger and rebellion. “In the beginning, there was a lot of protest inside me because I wasn’t allowed to be who I was,” she told Aftenposten. “But with confidence in my own pride, I eventually chose to do just as I pleased.”

Now she’s branching out and intends to release an album with strictly English lyrics for the first time. “That might irritate some, but it’s all about giving myself challenges,” she said. “I’m curious about what it will mean for me to write and sing in English.”

Boine has released 10 studio albums during her career, since debuting with Jaskatvuoda manna in 1986. Her breakthrough came with Gula gula in 1989. She won the Nordic Council’s music prize in 2003 and was decorated by King Harald with the Order of St Olav, 1st Class, in 2009.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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