A search for identity

With his first solo outing, Niko Valkeapää has achieved what many artists strive for years to obtain: a personal form of expression and a niche to himself.

Niko Valkeapää live

Although Valkeapää is solidly anchored in the Sami tradition, his musical outings owe more to contemporary and mature electronica-infused pop than traditional Sami chanting does. His self-titled debut album manifests Valkeapää as one of Sami music’s foremost performers and one of the most integral voices to emerge on this scene in recent years. With well-developed compositional skills, his feet are equally planted in an Anglo/American singer/songwriter tradition as they are in a traditional Sami lyrical form of expression. Valkeapää’s debut album draws a portrait of a young performer and composer that has found his linguistic as well as musical platform.

“The songs on my album deal with themes such as urbanity, cultural diversity and introspective exploration. Inter-human relations, social reactions and themes that circle around these factors are also central topics in my lyrics,” says the songwriter.

Born in Finland, the now Kautokeino-based Valkeapää relocated to Norway 13 years ago and has since made a name for himself on the Sami scene as a performer and songwriter. Though he has been active in a variety of outlets, he has not released a solo record until now. In close partnership with fellow co-producer, Oslo-based Georg Buljo, Niko Valkeapää has created a sterling album with strong contributions from a varied and competent crew of musicians that are known for collaboration with such diverse artists as Mari Boine, Jon Balke and Amundsen. The overall form of expression is subdued and understated, but the deep, captivating and warm vocal contributions provide enough force to propel the minimalist playing and sparse arrangements into a powerful mix. Says Valkeapää on the creation of his debut album: “It’s been a long process that has seen me and Buljo working closely together to create a personal statement.”

As a performer, Niko Valkeapää has contributed to a number of central events – the EXPO 2000 fair being one of the most significant. He has also won the coveted Sami Song Contest award, the Sámi Grand Prix, for two consecutive years (1994-95).

His godfather, the late Nils Aslak Valkeapää, posthumously contributes to Niko’s album in the form of two poems. In his trademark, understated style, Niko composes melodies that weave their way into and out of his godfather’s words. Nils Aslak Valkeapää was one of the foremost exponents of Sami art and culture through his long and distinguished career as a poet, composer and artist. Says Niko on his godfather’s influence: “I can’t deny that Nils Aslak was a role model for me – he was a figure that I would look up to. He has been a source of inspiration and I have included two of his poems on my album to pay homage to him.” The elder Valkeapää passed away two years ago.

Niko Valkeapää and producer Georg Buljo are currently working on new material that will be featured on a follow-up to his two albums. Says Valkeapää on future plans: “We’re going to build further on what we have already achieved, and then we’ll see what happens. We’re looking forward to releasing a new record and hopefully we’ll be able to reach out to a wider international audience.” Domestic and international touring is also on the agenda.

Releases:

Niko Valkeapää (Duippidit/Musikkoperatørene) 2003
Sierra (Duippidit/Musikkoperatørene) 2004

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