Music Review: “Dobbelis,” Máddji

Since I love music almost as much as I love books and writing, I’ve decided to do another music review. This time I’m writing about Dobbelis (Beyond), the first release by Norwegian Sami singer Máddji (full name Ánne Máddji Heatta).

Máddji and her music come from Guovdageaidnu (also called Kautokeino), a town in northern Norway. Máddji is a Sami—the indigenous people group of this arctic area. All of the songs on Dobbelis are in her native language of Northern Sami.

Musically, the influences of other famous Sami singers like Mari Boine and Ulla Pirttijärvi can be heard; but Máddji’s songs are not a copy of any of them. She brings a unique amalgam of new age, tribal, and even a hint of jazz to the world of Sami folk and rock music.

Songs like “Cihkosis” (Hidden) and “Guhkki” (Far) have the hypnotic quality of the spoken word to accompany the singing. Equally hypnotic is “Iđitguovssu” (Dawn Light)—Máddji’s clear, breathy voice floats through this trance-like song, punctuated by distant and haunting percussion.

For those who prefer songs with more energy, there’s “Idjarávga” (Night Creature) and “Stállu.” The title song “Dobbelis” (Beyond), while also upbeat, still has Máddji’s voice wandering through like an ethereal wind from her homeland.

Sami yoik—a traditional wordless chanting—dominates much of the album, especially evident in songs like “Báru Luohti” (Yoik of the Waves) and “Ovllá Niillas.”

“Idjarávga” gives Máddji an opportunity to show another aspect of Sami yoik—the mimicking of animal sounds. The imitation of a wolf howling is unmistakable , threading in and out through the background of the song.

I’ve used a lot of tracks from this album as inspiration/mood music for my writing, and I look forward to hearing more from Máddji in the future.

I would highly recommend this album to anyone who is fan of Mari Boine or similar music. And if you haven’t even heard of any Sami musicians but are looking for something new, then Dobbelis might just be the thing for you. Give it a listen!

Máddji’s site:

Máddji – “Guhkki”


The Awesome Idea

Everything that’s ever been created or ever will be created starts with a thought.

Sometimes this idea starts like a tiny seed—just one small unassuming thought that grows and develops into a full-blown Awesome Idea.

Other times, the Awesome Idea hits full grown and the one doing the thinking is bowled over by the intensity of the beginning, middle, end, and solution all wrapped up in one package all at once.

I’ve had story ideas come to me both ways. Sometimes I’m inspired to write because I get the whole plot—or at least the rough outline—all at once. Even this full-grown Awesome Idea gets built upon, of course, as I write it down. (I have yet to think up a whole story—complete with every word in place, dialogue tags done, no mistakes—without actually writing it down first. Now that would be an Awesome Idea indeed).

But usually, the Awesome Idea for a story comes to me in bits and pieces, and I have a lot of work to do before I have something that’s concrete enough to even begin writing it down. A character, a loose concept, one word or one line, an image or a musical phrase that captures my mind—these little disconnected flitting thoughts are usually what I begin with. Then comes brainstorming, building, experimenting with combining two or more of these disconnected ideas to see if they could gel together to begin growing into the Awesome Idea.

For my current project, I can actually trace the Awesome Idea that is the trilogy I’m writing (hopefully it’s awesome!) to one exact moment, one specific kernel of an idea. It’s grown and changed, of course, and went from a stand-alone book to a trilogy. The setting moved from Russia to Finland, and my one main character was joined by a sizable supporting cast.

But it all began when I was watching a movie called Kautokeino-Opprøret (a Norwegian film; the title translates as The Kautokeino Rebellion). The movie is based on the true story of a revolt by indigenous Sami people against the encroaching government, in a remote village in Norway in the 19th century. There’s one scene where the Sami are combining their separate herds of reindeer into one giant herd, to prevent one particular woman’s reindeer from being taken by the government in payment for a fine.

A line popped into my head: what if an entire herd of reindeer just vanished? And thus was born The Vanished Reindeer, the first novel of my trilogy. I then enhanced that core of an idea with a small dose of Finnish mythology and a large dose of fantasy.

Just a reminder: I’m talking about the birth of an Awesome Idea. The final product—my novel—has absolutely nothing to do with the Norwegian movie, is not based on a true story, and is not intended to be a commentary about indigenous peoples or governments. But that’s where it started.

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Writers, artists, musicians, and creators out there—how do your Awesome Ideas develop?

Music video/trailer for Kautokeino-Opprøret, music by Sami singer Mari Boine: