Indigenous Cosmopolitanisms of Music in Sámi Theatre


  • Klisala Harrison University of Helsinki



Sámi music, Sámi theatre, cosmopolitanism


Which kinds of Sáminess are expressed and engaged with music in Sámi theatre? Through descriptions of the kinds of musical genres and sounds presented, the article argue that the music of Sámi theatre can typically be described as cosmopolitan. As the musical expressions and engagements convey what is Sáminess, they present cosmopolitan versions of Sáminess. The author interprets performance moments as presenting types of Indigenous cosmopolitanism, in other words, Indigenous cosmopolitanisms. The article approaches music as musicking, which refers to all of the social interactions that go into creating a musical experience. Because this is theatre, this includes the social processes of staging other theatre values that relate with the music during theatrical performances. Other theatre values include costumes, set design, props, lighting, sound effects beyond music and movement such as dance and blocking. Overall, the productions perform a dynamic and fluid Sáminess that incorporates sounds, sights and movements from around the world, while often being “rooted” in what it is to be Sámi today and historically. Although most productions include identifiably Sámi music genres such as joik, it is worthwhile to note that some don’t. In these productions, the author identifies specific varieties of cosmopolitanism, such as vernacular cosmopolitanism, different forms of rooted cosmopolitanism and pan-Indigenous cosmopolitanism. The article examines case studies from Sámi theatre companies in Norway, Beaivváš Sámi Našunálateáhter and Åarjelhsaemien Teatere. The cases, among other productions, are the joik operas The Frost Haired and the Dream Seer and Allaq; the dance theatre productions Eatnemen Vuelieh and Gïeje; and the stage plays Silbajárviand Almmiriika.


Appiah, Kwame Anthony (2006) Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers. New York: W. W. Norton.

Chen, Xinjie. In progress. Rooted Cosmopolitanism of Sámi CDs in the 2000s. PhD dissertation manuscript, University of Helsinki.

DeLugan, Robin Maria (2010) “Same Cat, Different Stripes: Hemispheric Migrations, New Urban Indian Identities, and the Consolidation of a Cosmopolitan Cosmovision”. Indigenous Cosmopolitans: Transnational and Transcultural Indigeneity in the Twenty-First Century. Ed. Maximillian C. Forte. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., 145-161.

DeNora, Tia (2021) On Arranging Cherries. (visited 12 August 2021).

Diamond, Beverley (2007) “‘Allowing the Listener to Fly as They Want to’: SámiPerspectives on Indigenous CD Production in Northern Europe”. The World of Music 40/1, 23–48.

Diamond, Beverley (2011) “Decentering Opera: Early Twenty First Century Indigenous Production”. Opera Indigene: Re/presenting First Nations and Indigenous Cultures. Ed. Pamela Karantonis & Dylan Robinson. Surrey, England and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 31–56.

Forte, Maximillian C. (2010) “Introduction: Indigeneities and Cosmopolitanisms”.Indigenous Cosmopolitans: Transnational and Transcultural Indigeneity in the Twenty-First Century. Ed. Maximillian C. Forte. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., 1–16.

Gunnarsson, Haukur (2012) Liner notes. Ritnoaivi ja nieguid oaidni [The Frost Haired and the Dream Seer]. CD. Kautokeino: Beaivváš and DAT.

Gaski, Harald (2008) “Yoik – Sami Music in a Global World”. Indigenous Peoples: Self-determination, Knowledge, Indigeneity. Ed. Henry Minde. Utrecht: Eburon Academic Publishers, 347-360.

Gaski, Harald (2013) “Indigenism and Cosmopolitanism: A Pan-Sami View of the Indigenous Perspective in Sami Culture and Research”. AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples 9/2, 113-124.

Harrison, Klisala (2019) “Sustainability and Indigenous Aesthetics: Musical Responses of Resilience in Sámi and Indigenous Canadian Theatre”. Yearbook for Traditional Music 51, 17–48.

Harrison, Klisala (2020) “Indigenous Music Sustainability during Climate Change”. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 43, 28–34.

Hilder, Thomas R. (2012) “Repatriation, Revival and Transmission: The Politics of a Sámi Musical Heritage”. Ethnomusicology Forum 21/2, 161–179.

Hilder, Thomas R. (2014) Sámi Musical Performance and the Politics of Indigeneity in Northern Europe. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Jones-Bamman, Richard (1993) “As long as we continue to joik, we’ll remember who we are”: Negotiating Identity and the Performance of Culture: the Saami Joik. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington.

Jones-Bamman, Richard (2001) “From ‘I’m a Lapp’ to ‘I am Saami’: Popular Music and Changing Images of Indigenous Ethnicity in Scandinavia”. Journal of Intercultural Studies 22/2, 189–210.

Jouste, Marko (2009) “Traditional melodic types in the music of the Sámi in Finland”. Perspectives on the Song of the Indigenous People of Northern Eurasia: Performance, Genres, Musical Syntax, Sound. Ed. Jarkko Niemi. Tampere: Tampere University Press, 240–266.

Jürgensen, Ada Einmo, and Klisala Harrison. 2016. “(De)colonizing Knowledge of Sámi Performing Arts: Music, Dance, Theatre.” Conference paper. Aktasne—Together: New Concepts, Theories and Methodologies on Saami Studies. Umeå University, Sweden, March 10–11.

Kvernmo, Marie (2014) Beaivváš – an Institution for Sámi Culture Management or Mainstream Entertainment? The Sámi National theatre’s Role in the Sámi Community of Norway. Master’s thesis, The Arctic University of Norway.

Lehtola, Veli-Pekka (2013) “Staging Sami Identities: The Roles of Modern Sami Theatre in a Multicultural Context – The Case of Beaivváš Sámi Teáhter”. L’Image du Sápmi. Ed. Kajsa Andersson. Örebro: Örebro University, 437-458.

Lehtola, Veli-Pekka & Sigga-Marja Magga (2011) Beaivváš: Beaivváš Sámi Našunálateáhter, Berit Marit Hætta. Publications of the Sámi Museum Foundation no. 8. Inari: Sámi Museum Siida.

Levine, Victoria Lindsay & Dylan Robinson (2019) Music and Modernity among First Peoples of North America. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.

Moisala, Pirkko (2011) “From Traditional Yoik (Joiku) Transmission towards Formal Education”. Yoik: Aspects of Performing, Collecting, Interpreting. Ed. Dan Lundberg & Gunnar Ternhag. Uppsala: The Center for Swedish Folk Music and Jazz Research, 43–64.

Perman, Tony (2012) “Sungura in Zimbabwe and the Limits of Cosmopolitanism”. Ethnomusicology Forum 21/3, 374–401.

Proulx, Craig (2010) “Aboriginal Hip Hoppers: Representi’ Aboriginality in Cosmopolitan Worlds”. Indigenous Cosmopolitans: Transnational and Transcultural Indigeneity in the Twenty-First Century. Ed. Maximillian C. Forte. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., 39–61.

Ramnarine, Tina K. (2009) “Acoustemology, Indigeneity, and Joik in Valkeapää’s Symphonic Activism: Views from Europe’s Arctic Fringes for Environmental Ethnomusicology”. Ethnomusicology 53/2, 187–217.

Ramnarine, Tina K. (2015) “Frozen through Nordic frames”. Puls: Swedish Journal of Ethnomusicology and Ethnochoreology 1, 13–31.

Robinson, Dylan (2019) “Speaking to Water, Singing to Stone: Peter Morin, Rebecca Belmore, and the Ontologies of Indigenous Modernity”. Music and Modernity among First Peoples of North America. Eds. Victoria Lindsay Levine & Dylan Robinson. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 220–239. (2021) Northern Sami – English. (visited 26 October 2021).

Small, Christopher (1998) Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.

Webster-Kogen, Ilana (2014) “Song Style as Strategy: Nationalism, Cosmopolitanism and Citizenship in The Idan Raichel Project’s Ethiopianinfluenced Songs.” Ethnomusicology Forum 23/1, 27–48.

Werbner, Pnina (2006) “Vernacular Cosmopolitanism.” Theory, Culture & Society 23/2-3, 496–498.

Werbner, Pnina (2020) Anthropology and the New Cosmopolitanism: Rooted, Feminist and Vernacular Perspectives. 2nd ed. London: Routledge.

UNPFII (United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues) Factsheet (n.d.) Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Voices. (visited 22 February 2021).





Harrison, K. (2021). Indigenous Cosmopolitanisms of Music in Sámi Theatre. Etnomusikologian vuosikirja, 33, 119–146.