The first time I heard her, the tears just fell. Transcendant. Intimate. Ethereal. Shamanic.
All typical reactions to Gula Gula, Goaskinviellja, and virtually any track in Mari Boine’s deep and varied catalog. Her voice is a hotline to the heart, tidal moon to the sea within, meditation magic. But for Sámi, she is that and more: sister, role model, teacher, mentor, cultural icon, advocate, activist. Those who have seen her perform can tell you the year, venue, who she was with, and what she was wearing. Anyone remotely related will tell how (maternal 9th cousin, thanks for asking).
Norway has laureled, lauded, knighted, Spellemanned and lifetime-achievemented her. Earlier this year, she was awarded the Paul Robeson humanitarian prize for her antiracism work. She is known for being a generous mentor of young talent.
As this is her first tour of the West Coast, I wonder if she will see many Sámi Americans at her concerts, given our invisibility cloaks. And how about that other invisible minority for whom she is a lodestar: apostate Laestadians? Washington State is home to the largest outpost of the music-shunning sect that prompted Mari’s rebellion as a teen in Karasjok. Her candor in interviews gave hope to countless music and art loving misfits, myself included.
Tear-streaked faces and solidarity fists may be tells. If she sings “this is my soul, it is a good soul,” I suspect more than a few of us will nod, close our eyes, and press hands to hearts, inhaling it as a blessing of protection against anyone (colonizer, priest, parent, self!) who says otherwise.
Mari Boine as Pathfinder shows a way back: to ancestral rhythms, to Eatni, symbiosis, reciprocity, resilience, love. Whether or not she sees us, may she feel the profound gratitude in each smile and “ollu giitu.”
You can find links to concert tickets on her website at https://www.mariboine.no
See you there!