On Record – Gunnar Idenstam & Ola Stinnerbom: A Saami Requiem (Toccata Next)

Ola Stinnerbom (yoik), Gunnar Idenstam (organ), Henrietta Wallberg (vocalist), Erik Weissglas (guitars), Rafael Sida Huizar (percussion)

Idenstam / Stinnerbom A Saami Requiem

Toccata Next TOCN0017 [63’35”]

Producer Jostein Andersen Engineer Anders Hannus

Live performance 21 September 2019, Studio Acusticum, Pileå, Sweden

Reviewed by Richard Whitehouse

What’s the story?

The enterprising Next imprint of Toccata Classics continues with A Saami Requiem, which   is neither a field recording nor an ethnomusicological construct but more a concept album in which the religious practice of this people is endowed with a distinctly ‘crossover’ twist.

What’s the music like?

As is indicated above, this is not the realization of a burial mass such as those peoples of the Sápmi region (formerly Lapland) would recognize. Instead, Sámi artist and yoik-singer Ola Stinnerbom has collaborated with the Swedish organist Gunnar Idenstam for what results in a fusion of musical styles and cultures that, if hardly new as an underlying concept, conveys much of the ritualistic atmosphere and emotional fervency as might be associated with this practice. The outcome is rarely less than engaging in content and sometimes much more so.

As with a Requiem or comparable funeral service, the present work comprises a number of sections that here fall into three parts. After its sombre organ ‘Entrée’, The Journey continues with a ‘Requiem aeternam’ in which yoik and organ gradually merge towards a ‘Misterioso’ whose percussive backing imparts greater rhythmic freedom. The ensuing ‘Blues Yoik in C’ ventures further into fusion territory – its blues-vamp afforded a rockier twist in ‘Pols Yoik’, then this first part ends with the mesmeric groove of ‘Saajva’ as it heads into the next world.

The Kingdom of Death begins with the longest section, a ‘Mirrored Chorale – Shimmering Yoik’ of no mean expressive subtlety, followed by a ‘Percussion Meditation’ that gradually disrupts the prevailing inwardness. An ensuing ‘Adagio’ restores something of a meditative calm, before ‘Jaamie Ahkka’s Death Yoik’ brings something of an emotional culmination with its free-form interplay of voices against circling organ harmonies and the distant yet unremitting toll of bells – music this evocative certainly creating its own distinct imagery.

The Return duly commences with ‘The Return Voyage’ and another section whose intensive rhythmic profile builds in a dynamic crescendo towards the relative contentment of ‘Back in this World’ and what sounds the closest approximation to a strophic song in this context. The ‘Blues Yoik in E’ that follows admits of overtly rock-like elements through its trenchant beat or vamping interplay of organ and guitar, which the ‘Epilogue and Hymn’ transmutes into a celebration of life overcoming death in what becomes a truly Messiaenic ‘Transports de Joie’.

Does it all work?

Yes, within those stylistic parameters which this piece embraces. Certainly, the combination of Stinnerbom and Idenstam is made the more formidable through the dextrous guitar playing of Erik Weissglas and inventive percussion of Rafael Sida Huizar; to say nothing of Henrietta Wallberg’s starkly otherworldly vocals. Quite who – if, indeed, anyone specific – this project is aimed at remains unclear, though those with a passing interest in more left-field rock bands (not necessarily limited to the 1970s) should find it an absorbing as well as rewarding listen.

Is it recommended?

It is, and not least on account of its amalgamation of traditional with composed music such as leaves a tangible emotional resonance. Idenstam and Stinnerbom’s succinct annotations cover the background to this project and take the listener deftly yet surely through its various stages.

For further information on this release, and to purchase, visit the Toccata Classics website. Click on the names to read more about Ola Stinnerbom, Gunnar Idenstam, Henrietta Wallberg, Erik Weissglas and Rafael Sida Huizar



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