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News, 12/7/2006

Amoc is rapping the Sámi language onto the map

Rapper Amoc alias Mikkal Morottaja, 21, raps intense rhymes in one of the most endangered languages in the world. Young people who speak Inari Sámi, comprise only about 20 people but his music attracts attention from a much wider audience.

Mikkal Morottaja alias Amoc. Photo: Harri Nurminen

Mikkal Morottaja was born and raised in Inari, the home of his father's family. His father is an Inari Sámi, and his mother is from Turku. Mikkal learnt both languages as a child as did his two brothers. The family's common languages are both Finnish and Inari Sámi; his mother understands Inari Sámi and can even speak the language a little. Mikkal is recorded in the population register as an Inari Sámi speaker from birth.

At the moment there are about 350 people who can speak Inari Sámi — most of them over middle age.

"When I went to school I was the only child in my age-group who spoke Inari Sámi," explains Mikkal Morottaja.

He was, however, educated at school in the Inari Sámi language and took his matriculation exam native language test in Inari Sámi, and he believes he is one of the first ten students to have done this.

Mikkal Morottaja currently teaches Inari Sámi at the upper secondary school in Inari. He has a total of five pupils.

"More and more pupils want to study Inari Sámi with each new year group. The future looks bright," says Mikkal Morottaja.

He believes this development is a result of the 'language nest' method. 'Language nests' are child day care groups where Sámi children who speak Finnish as their mother tongue learn the language of their tribal unit naturally. There are now teaching groups at school where all the teaching is provided in Inari Sámi, while only a few years ago no Sámi children under the age of 7 could speak Inari Sámi.

Mythical rhymes about the Arctic wilderness

Mikkal Morottaja claims that he could even write a love letter in Inari Sámi. He says he has written text messages in Inari Sámi even though some of the characters used in Inari Sámi are missing on mobile phones. Some words do not even exist in Sámi. Mikkal's dad, Matti Morottaja, who is a retired teacher, actively works to preserve and develop the language and has helped Mikkal find and think up expressions for his raps.

Mikkal Morottaja's interest in rap started in his early teens around the same time that the first Finnish rap albums came out.

"At first I just came up with some rather amusing rhymes in Finnish. When I was in the 6th form I decided to try and see if it was possible to come up with rhymes in Sámi. When my friends told me they thought this worked well, I started writing almost all my raps in Sámi," explains Mikkal Morottaja.

The inspiration for Morottaja's Sámi raps is the Arctic wilderness; the mindscape is rugged and mythical. He raps about a golden axe, heaven and hell. Even though few understand his lyrics, Amoc's live gigs are popular amongst Nordic audiences.

"Young people who can speak other Sámi languages understand some of my lyrics. I want my rap to have a good beat and flow, my voice control to sound good and my stage show to be interesting. Those who are curious can find the Finnish versions of my raps on the Internet.

Amoc's first CD was released in spring 2006.

Language preservation is self protection

This young man is planning to apply to study media at Tampere, Oulu, Rovaniemi or Helsinki. His long-term goal is, however, to return to the North.

"I travel a lot but home is always so much nicer than anywhere else."

If Morottaja becomes a father, he will definitely speak Inari Sámi to his children and carry on the ancient culture to the next generation. He believes he is not the only one to think this way and that there are other young people who value language and traditions and want to stay in Lapland.

How does Mikkal Morottaja explain the motive for putting so much effort into preserving the archaic language of one small community?

"It is important to me as it is part of the fight for self preservation which is a part of human nature. It would be very sad if the language died out," he explains.

"I hope that this type of popular music will promote this cause. And if other people listen to this music then young Sámi can feel proud of their language and culture. Thank goodness music is eternal."

Adapted from article by Salla Korpela for Virtual Finland.

The Saami People

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Updated 12/7/2006

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