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Can Lapps 'yoik' their way to world's cultural stage?

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The Lapps are making a two-pronged assault in a bid to get wider recognition of their culture. Their first weapon is the yoik. The second is "the snow play."

Both may seem a little bizarre to people not familiar with the ways of this racial minority of some 34,000 living high above the Arctic Circle in Sweden, Norway, Finland, and the Soviet Union.

The yoik is the Lapp way of singing -- a cross between conventional song and recitation, with a certain je ne sais quoim all of its own.

Asbjorn Nesheim, professor of Lappish studies at the University of Oslo, describes it thus: "The yoik consists as a rule of a brief text which is repeated over and over again, until it is suddenly cut short."

Ailo Gaup, a Lapp activist who alternates between his home reindeer-grazing tract near Kautokeino in the far north of Norway and the more sophisticated environment of Oslo, the capital, where he works as a journalist, has the unique distinction of having brought the yoik into the 20th century.

He has composed the first-ever yoik rock opera.

It is titled "Min Duoddariid," which means "My Country" in Lappish. It caused quite a stir when it was premiered recently at Harstad, one of the ports chosen for development as part of Norway's North Sea oil program.

Ailo is also involved in "the snow play." The aim of this is, quite literally , to take theater out into the cold. To be precise, into temperatures that may range from -20 degrees C. to -35 degrees C.

A Lapp theater group, Dal-Vadis, of which ailo is a prominent member, plans to put on a play in the open in Jokkmokk in Swedish Lappland next February. Maj Doris Rimpi, who is organizing the event, admits that there are problems.

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