It may have been March but in Northern Lapland, the temperatures still hovered in the minus category -- centigrade, that is, but still frigid enough that I couldn't wait to snuggle near a fire. Luckily, my group and I were able to bail out from the frigid temperatures at the family-owned Inari Reindeer Farm. There, Jani invited us into one of several teepee-like structures or kotas where we found a stone fireplace with a blazing fire smack in the center of the circular space where we gathered, drinking tea or coffee from our birch cups and listening to what it means to be a member of a Sámi tribe, the indigenous people that settled in, among other places, Northern Finland.
Last week I blogged about our many reindeer adventures and the reindeer facts we all learned.
Now, Jani's tales are interrupted by his mother who is dressed in a traditional outfit and carries a drum made of reindeer skin and birch wood towards the fireplace. He tells us that a drum, which the musician uses to tell stories, must always be heated before playing: it actually improves the sound quality. His mom treats us to several deep-throated songs or joiks that all seem to have a mournful or melancholy quality. The first revolves around tales of their family, the second is dedicated to a bear hunt -- see the video (below). Another is a song to the fire, which is central to the life of the Sámi people.
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