"12 Drummers Drumming" Sami

Saami Drummer
Country/People: Saami (or Sami) people of Norway and northern Finland and Russia  . . . . . (Lapland)
Drum: ancient-style runebomme (rune drum)
Border: Traditional patterns found on Saami clothing
Dry point etching (on aluminum plate) 

Bures/ Hello in Sami

Drum: runebomme (rune drum)

While they don’t all speak the same language, there are about 80,000 Saami, who consider themselves one people, and about half of them live in Norway. Their land, the broader area that reaches across northern Scandinavia into Russia, is known as Sápmi by these indigenous people. (It has been called Lapland by non-Saami, but that term is often seen as pejorative by the Saami.)

This ancient Rune Drum covered in untanned reindeer hide and decorated with rune markings became a symbol of Sami culture, something to be preserved, especially in the 17th and 18th centuries as Sami beliefs were being challenged by  Christianity.  The oval-shaped instrument is typical of the frame-style drum, with a geometric figure representing the sun in the center and with additional symbols around the sun, representing people, animals, landscape and deities.  The Sami shaman or noaidi would beat the drum with his hand to put himself into a trance. It was the belief that while in this trance state, he could visit the spirit world and obtain information about the future. (The “Sami Drums” site listed below has illustrations of traditional drum decorations.)  

Border: traditional Saami attire patterns

The drummer, pictured here, is wearing the characteristic Sami outfit known as the Gákti, which, is a point of pride for the Saami people even today. His is the Guovdageaidnu- style (from that region, near the Finnish border.) The Gákti consists of a unisex-style pullover. (The men’s top is a little shorter than the women’s.) He wears a belt ornamented with metal couching with pewter wire. This clothing tends to be brightly decorated with color-block strips of material and areas of detailed design. These areas may at first look like embroidery, but they are rather appliquéd rows of ribbon or patterned weaving. The shoes or short boots, often made of reindeer hide and fur, turn up at the end. The pointed, hooked-toe ends are particularly suited for skiers. The footwear is tied to the legs with colorful ribbons and laces.

References and Links
( Note: I do not endorse or mean to promote any of these sites.) 
  • natinalclothing: Saami reindeer boots (Finland)
  • Norwegian Shaman Erick Myhaug plays the drum for Wisdom from the North. Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQ6ji45qj4o
  • Nikel, David. The Sami People. Live in Norway. 12/10/2018. https://www.lifeinnorway.net/sami-people/
  • Overview of Saami costume. Folk costume and Embroidery.    11/05/2013.
  • http://folkcostume.blogspot.com/2013/05/overview-of-saami-costume.html
  • The Sami. Northern Norway. https://nordnorge.com/en/tema/the-sami-are-the-indigenous-people-of-the-north/
  • Sami. Top 5 ethnic minorities around the world and their national clothing. http://nationalclothing.org/501-top-5-ethnic-minorities-around-the-world-and-their-national-clothing.html
  • Ripa. Ellen. The Story of the Sami People and Culture. Skandiblog. https://skandihome.com/skandiblog/uncategorized/sami-culture-customs/
  • Sami Drums. https://old.no/samidrum/
  • Sami Drums Then and Now. Sami Culture. https://www.laits.utexas.edu/sami/diehtu/giella/music/noaidi.htm#types


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The Art and Writing of Barbara Rizza Mellin