Mari Boine, previously known as Mari Boine Persen, (born 8 November 1956) is a Norwegian Sami musician known for having added jazz and rock to the yoiks of her native people. Gula Gula (first released by Iđut, 1989, later re-released by Real World) was her breakthrough release, and she continued to record popular albums throughout the 1990s.
Boine was born and raised in Gámehisnjárga, a village on the river Anarjohka in Karasjok municipality in Finnmark, in the far north of Norway.
Her parents were Sami (Lapps). They made a living from salmon fishing and farming. She grew up steeped in the region’s natural environment, but also amidst the strict Laestadian Christian movement with discrimination against her people: for example, singing in the traditional Sami joik style was considered ‘the devil’s work’. The local school that she attended reflected a very different world from her family’s. All the teaching was in Norwegian.
As she grew up she started to rebel against being an inferior Lappish woman in Norwegian society. For instance, the booklet accompanying the CD ‘Leahkastin’ (Unfolding) is illustrated with photographs with racist captions like ‘Lapps report for anthropological measurement’, ‘Typical female Lapp’, ‘A well-nourished Lapp’; and it ends with a photo of Boine herself as a girl, captioned ‘Mari, one of the rugged Lapp-girl types’ and attributed ‘(Photo: Unidentified priest)’.
She was asked to perform at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, but refused because she perceived the invitation as an attempt to bring a token minority to the ceremonies.
In 2003 Boine was awarded the Nordic Council Music Prize. She was appointed knight, first class in the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav for her artistic diversity on September 18, 2009.
Her songs are strongly rooted in her experience of being in a despised minority. For example, the song ‘Oppskrift for Herrefolk’ (‘Recipe for a Master Race’) on her breakthrough CD ‘Gula Gula’, sung in Norwegian unlike the rest of the songs which are in Sami, speaks directly of ‘discrimination and hate’, and ironically recommends ways of oppressing a minority: ‘Use bible and booze and bayonet’; ‘Use articles of law against ancient rights’.
Her other songs are more positive, often singing of the beauty and wildness of Sapmi (Lapland). The title track of ‘Gula Gula’ asks the listener to remember ‘that the earth is our mother’.
She sings in a traditional folk style, using the yodelling ‘yoik’ voice, with a range of accompanying instruments and percussion. For example, on ‘Gula Gula’ the instruments used are drum, guitar, electric bass clarinet, dozo n’koni, ganga, claypot, darboka, tambourine, seed rattles, cymbal, clarinet, piano, frame drum, saz, drone drum, hammered dulcimer, bosoki, overtone flute, bells, bass, quena, charango and antara.