Music Review: “Váibmosat,” Eva Jeanette

Eva Jeanette’s album Váibmosat debuted in 2012. Eva Jeanette is a Sami from Karasjok, Norway, and she sings in her native Sami tongue. Váibmosat (Til Ditt Hjerte in Norwegian) roughly translates to “To Your Heart” in English, and it is a collection of songs of praise.

Eva Jeanette is a Christian Sami singer. Most of the songs on this album are slow and prayerful – hymns of meditation rather than upbeat “praise and worship” songs that are common in the Christian music genre. Her voice is strong and clear – perfect for carrying songs with a solo voice.

Unlike many Sami singers, Eva Jeanette features very little of the joik, the traditional Sami style of chanting/singing, on this album. Instead she opts for more familiar Norwegian hymns, but sung in the Sami language. “Mu Váibmu Vádjol Doppe” – or “Mitt Hjerte Alltid Vanker” – is a well-known Norwegian song. I had heard that song in both Norwegian and Sami before hearing Eva Jeanette’s version, which I very much enjoyed – a slow, rhythmic song with a long instrumental segment at the end.

The song “Visot Buvttán Jesus Ovdii” I have heard in English as “I Surrender All,” a popular worship song at many a church or gathering. It was the only song besides “Mu Váibmu Vádjol Doppe” that I recognized, but I didn’t choose this album because I wanted something familiar.

I wanted to discover new music, new talent, and a beautiful new sound, and that’s exactly what I found in Eva Jeanette’s songs. Whether you’re looking for modern Christian music for an international audience, or you’re looking for new Scandinavian or Sami music, “Váibmosat” is definitely worth a listen.

Eva Jeanette’s Facebook page

Ovtta Almmála Báikki Mun Dieðán

Music Review: “Dreaming Of Home,” Susan Aglukark

Canadian singer/songwriter Susan Aglukark has long been one of my favorite music artists. She is Inuit – the aboriginal people who live in the arctic regions of northern Canada – and her music bridges all cultural gaps. Her latest album Dreaming of Home is no different. The spirit of Christmas and a love for family and home are universal, and this collection of holiday songs shows just that.

Dreaming of Home features several familiar Christmas favorites, like “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song),” and “Huron Carol.” Other songs, like “Caledonia” and the titular song “I’m Dreaming of Home,” are simple songs of the love and warmth of home.

If you’ve heard Susan’s first Christmas album from a number of years ago, you’ll recognize “Old Toy Trains” and the Inuktitut version of “Silent Night.” These are new versions, though, for this album. As much as I love her original renditions of these songs, I was excited to hear them again with a different sound.

As she usually does, Susan sings in both English and her native language of Inuktitut on this album. “Huron Carol” and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” are in Inuktitut, while “Old Toy Trains,” “Silent Night,” and “Do You Hear What I Hear” are sung in a mix of both languages.

My regular readers probably know how much I enjoy listening to music in other languages, but I think this is especially meaningful at Christmas. Hearing Christmas songs in different tongues, whether they’re familiar tunes or not, to me exemplifies the meaning of Christmas – it’s a gift for everyone of every culture, all over the world.

A gentle folk-rock sound and Susan’s clear voice make this album a delightful Christmas treat. I know that I’ll be adding these songs to my annual Christmas playlist for many years to come.

Merry Christmas!

Susan Aglukark’s website

“Do You Hear What I Hear”

Orchestra Seats

Last week my mom and I went to the ballet. I realized with some embarrassment that it’s been more than a few years since I’ve been to a ballet. I came away feeling very cultured and refined, with some unique and unexpected impressions from this night of music and art.

We had first row orchestra seats, front and center right up at the orchestra pit. Since I enjoy watching musicians playing as much as I enjoy watching dancers and other performers, I was thrilled with these seats.

When you sit that close to the front, in an opulent but small 1920s-era theater, it means that you’re really close to the stage. If I’d stretched, I could have almost touched the orchestra conductor. This put me in a rare position to hear nuances of the music that those farther back in the theater wouldn’t have heard.

I heard the conductor breathing. He began each musical phrase on an inhale or exhale. Since the conductor sets the tone for the entire orchestra, this seemed appropriate for him to be breathing the music, living the music.

Musical instruments sometimes make sounds besides just the music they were designed for. Fingers sliding on the strings of the cello or the bass. The click of the keys on the bassoon and the clarinet. To me, these mechanical sounds are part of the music, and something that can be lost listening to a recording or to electronically-produced music.

Tchaikovsky’s Serenade, the ethereal string composition that began the evening, featured female dancers in white airy garments. But from my seat, I could tell that even though these dancers floated like fairies, they were still just human like me. Skirts swished, toe shoes thumped with soft little hollow sounds as they twirled. Hearing these sounds made the experience no less magical for me.

The same was for the following two numbers – Bernstein’s Fancy Free, and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. The movement, the music, the athleticism of the dancers – all of that goes into making a memorable ballet. But so does the clicking of the beads on the girl’s skirt in Fancy Free, and the thumping of feet as the male leads each performed their solo numbers.

Or the pounding of hands and feet beating the stage in The Rite of Spring, or the heavy breath of the lead dancers after their grueling solo of acrobatics. These sounds are invisible to those sitting in the mezzanine seats, with their grand overhead view of the entire stage.

My view was limited to the musicians right below me, and the dancers right above me. And I could hear everything. The next time I go to the ballet, I will do whatever I can to get those orchestra seats.

Music Review: Vellamo

Welcome a new duo to the world of modern Finnish folk music! The self-titled album by the band Vellamo was released earlier this year. Being a fan of Finnish mythology, I was immediately drawn in by the band’s name—Vellamo was a sea goddess in the old stories.

And it turns out their music is equally enchanting. A singer-songwriter style, with a little rock tossed in here and there, adds flair to the simple yet enticing tracks on this album. The clear, unadorned tones of singer Pia Leinonen are accompanied by the acoustic stylings of guitarist Joni Tiala.

This album may be in the folk genre, but Vellamo offers a lot of variety for your listening pleasure. There’s fast and folksy like “Juokse Frank Juokse,” or slow and melancholy like “Kaipaava.”

There’s a little bit of Finnish—“Oman kullan silmät” or “Ja se mies;” a little bit of English—“Lovebirds” or “Silver Dagger.” And even a little bit of Swedish—“Elin i Hagen.”

Vellamo’s sound—whether toe-tapping or soothing, Finnish or English—gives me that warm feeling of live music night at a local coffeehouse. Or that lazy calm of sitting on a boat out in the lake. I’m excited to see where this music from the mythical sea spirit goes in the future.

Vellamo on Facebook

Music Video – Suljen

Music Review: “Hokulea,” AOMusic

Hokulea is the latest album by the world music fusion group AOMusic. “World music” is truly the best term—sounds from India, Ireland, North Carolina, and every place in between are heard on this album. Happy, energetic, full of color and imagination—these are some of the words I could use to describe the theme of Hokulea.

South African-born Miriam Stockley leads the vocals on almost every track, accompanied by children’s choirs from several nations. Miriam is most well-known for her work with Adiemus in the 1990s, and also has many collaborations and solo albums to her name.

Her voice is at once both youthful and mature. Shouting African singing, the floating waves of New Age ambience, the happy rhythms of children’s games—Miriam Stockley can sing it all. She could carry this album all by herself, but the choirs of Ireland and Nepal and America only add to the sound, like adding delicious layers onto a cake.

Like the sounds of the music, AO’s lyrics are timeless and come from all over the world. Hindi, Japanese, and Swahili words are sprinkled throughout their songs. The title song “Hokulea” means “Star of Gladness” in Polynesian.

“Irie Grá Medley” dances the listener through the jigs and reels of Ireland. “Yaka Matai” shouts praise songs from the Xhosa of southern Africa. And every song sings of joy and life.

Altogether, Hokulea is a celebration of sound that you don’t want to miss!

AO Music on YouTube

AO Music’s website

Miriam Stockley’s website

 

“Kuimba”

Music Review: “In the Silence,” Greta Salóme Stefánsdóttir

There’s a lot of musical talent in Iceland, and frankly, the rest of the world needs to know about it. Greta Salóme is a young Icelandic musician who just released her debut album, In the Silence (released in 2012 by Hands Up Music). Greta began her career as a classically-trained violinist and still performs with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra.  But on this album she displays other talents, as well—composing, lyric-writing, and singing.

Most of the songs (written and composed by Greta) are in English. “Mundu Eftir Mér” and “Aldrei Sleppir Mér” are the two Icelandic songs on the album.

The song “Never Forget” helped to gain her international recognition as it was Iceland’s official entry for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012. She sings a duet with Icelandic music star Jonsi (real name Jón Jósep Snæbjörnsson).

Folk, rock, and even dance styles are featured on this album—punctuated throughout by Greta’s violin, especially evident in tracks like “These Last Days of Summer,” “See you There,” and “Never Forget.”

For those who want an easy folk-rock sound, there are songs like “Take this Empty Heart” and “Coming Home Soon.” For a faster beat and more of a rock or dance feel, try “In the Silence” and “Everywhere Around Me.”

Greta’s clear, powerful voice shines in every song. “A Thousand More Goodbyes” is a beautiful showcase for her voice alone and the simplicity of the arrangement can make you want to fall in love just by hearing it. And her voice is not diminished in the slightest by sharing the music with Jonsi in “Never Forget,” and “Mundu Eftir Mér,” the Icelandic version of the song.

All of Greta’s lyrics speak of love, life, and hope. Personally, I enjoy songs that are positive in their words, even if it’s a song of sorrow or pain. “We Are” and “Everywhere Around Me” are songs that just make me feel good. And a song that makes me feel good, I’ll listen to again and again.

For anyone who wants some new music with some musical and even linguistic variety, I’d recommend this album. Greta’s first releases were a couple of singles (“Vor” and “Bethlehem”—not on this album) and I’m looking forward to more singles and more albums from her. Here’s to bringing more Icelandic music to the world!

Greta Salóme’s Facebook page

“Never Forget”