Amoc is rapping the Smi language onto the map

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sun Dec 10 16:34:11 UTC 2006

Embassy  7.12.2006

Amoc is rapping the Saami 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 Saami,
comprise only about 20 people but his music attracts attention from a much
wider audience. Mikkal Morottaja was born and raised in Inari, the home of
his father's family. His father is an Inari Saami, 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 Saami; his mother
understands Inari Saami and can even speak the language a little. Mikkal is
recorded in the population register as an Inari Saami speaker from birth.

At the moment there are about 350 people who can speak Inari Saami most of
them over middle age. "When I went to school I was the only child in my
age-group who spoke Inari Saami," explains Mikkal Morottaja. He was,
however, educated at school in the Inari Saami language and took his
matriculation exam native language test in Inari Saami, and he believes he
is one of the first ten students to have done this. Mikkal Morottaja
currently teaches Inari Saami at the upper secondary school in Inari. He has
a total of five pupils. "More and more pupils want to study Inari Saami 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 Saami 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 Saami, while only a few years ago no Saami children under
the age of 7 could speak Inari Saami. Mythical rhymes about the Arctic
wilderness Mikkal Morottaja claims that he could even write a love letter
in Inari Saami. He says he has written text messages in Inari Saami even
though some of the characters used in Inari Saami are missing on mobile
phones. Some words do not even exist in Saami. 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
Saami. When my friends told me they thought this worked well, I started
writing almost all my raps in Saami," explains Mikkal Morottaja. The
inspiration for Morottaja's Saami 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 Saami 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

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

If Morottaja becomes a father, he will definitely speak Inari Saami 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

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 Saami can feel proud of their
language and culture. Thank goodness music is eternal."

Adapted from article by Salla Korpela for Virtual Finland.

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