Almost 30 years have passed since Mari Boine swept music lovers around the globe off their feet. First with her astonishing solo album “Gula Gula” which was released internationally on Peter Gabriel’s famous RealWorld label, then, in the same year, with her participation in the breath-taking video clip “One World One Voice” produced by Rupert Hines. For “Gula Gula” Mari received the first of her three “Spellemannsprisen” (commonly referred to as Norway’s Grammy Award). With her exotic voice informed by the long time oppressed shaman culture of the Norwegian Sami, an indigenous people often compared to Native Americans, and her almost trance-like folk music, Mari Boine created together with sámi guitarist Roger Ludvigsen, a sound universe of her own. Today she is revered as a truly unique artist whose trajectory led her to release more than a dozen highly-acclaimed solo albums and collaborate with stellar Norwegian jazz musicians like Jan Garbarek and Bugge Wesseltoft.
From the start, Mari Boine has been one of the most outspoken and important representatives of the Sami culture. As an artist and activist, she has worked tirelessly for the recognition and preservation of the indigenous Sami culture, thus inspiring younger generations to be proud of their unique roots. Even though Boine draws heavily on her musical heritage (Christian Lestadian hymn singing, Sami joik chants, and Norwegian folk music), she masterfully blends these influences with modern musical elements from jazz, rock, and pop. After her initial success, she released the albums “Goaskinviellja/Eagle Brother” (1993), “Leahkastin/Unfolding” (1994), and “Eallin/Live” (1996) which earned her three German Jazz Awards even though the music could hardly be labeled as jazz. The new millennium saw Boine reaching out to new audiences with a couple of highly original remix albums (“Mari Boine Remixed” in 2001 and “ It Ain’t Necessarily Evil” in 2008) featuring reworks by heavyweights like Bill Laswell, Chilluminati, Nils Petter Molvær, Jan Bang, Jah Wobble, Mark de Clive-Lowe, Raymond Pellicer, Henrik Schwarz, Mungolian Jetset, and Mental Overdrive. Furthermore, she co-wrote music for German film director Anne Wild’s adaptation of the fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel” (2005) and Nils Gaup’s movie “The Kautokeino Rebellion” (2008) about the religious and cultural reawakening that in 1852 inspired a Sami revolt in a small Norwegian village. In 2009 she broke new grounds on “Čuovgga Áirras/Sterna Paradisea” collaborating with South African musicians and adopting a lighter, more pop-like approach. After a lengthy hiatus, Mari Boine returned in 2017 with “See The Woman”, a surprising new album is sung, for the first time ever, entirely in English. In 2018, she was the recipient of the “Spellemannprisen” honorary award for her lifetime achievements and became a member of the The Royal Swedish Academy of Music.
At a time when the vast majority of popular singers seems to follow predetermined patterns, Mari Boine has managed to stand out as one of a kind. Constantly evolving, changing, modernizing, and daring, but never bending to the rules of the recording industry. “It’s completely irrelevant what you call her music,” one critic once wrote about her. “Her music blends seamlessly into the rhythms and sound picture of our times. She could have sung her songs a thousand years ago or sing them a thousand years from now and still retain the same depth and resonance. In other words, it is like Mari Boine’s voice reveals just the smallest sliver of eternity.”
Photographer: Gregor Hohenberg