2.2.3. The individual song

One of the varieties of the syo is the individual or personal song, denoted by with the name of its owner, like "Wanoy' syo" (see below), 'the song of a Wanuyta (a Nenets surname) woman'.

There are strict rules for the performance of one's personal song. The composer of an individual song tends to sing it in solitude and maybe in the presence of the closest relatives, but not willingly to other people, especially to non-relatives.

On the other hand, it is considered insulting to sing, or to reveal songs of one's close relatives, to strangers. These rules can be evaded, if the performer can be sure that the owner of the song doesn't hear her/his song performed by somebody else. In singing somebody else's song, the name of the author of the song has to be announced, although usually it occurs in the song text anyway. Owing to the personal nature of the song, another performer creates in fact another song, the interpreted, variant song, like imitating an written autograph.

In any case, with the author's name being incorporated every time the song is performed, it can survive long after its author has gone. Although it is said that an owned personal song is something that is to be carried for the whole lifetime, the author, however, renews the song during his/her life. Thus the song matures along with its author.

The personal song functions also as a medium to describe and contemplate one's personal experiences, it can serve as a soother in long, solitary journeys in hard weather. On the other hand, the singing of someone else's song (in public) is a kind of social statement, an interpretation, through which the singer describes the owner of the song. Thus, in a way, personal songs function as an archive of human relations.

Pushkarëva has a folkloristic insight into the nature of ownership as a generic feature of the personal song. She maintains that these songs (i.e., song texts) have to be considered as an equivalent to the authored products of textual cultures, and not merely as a part of the (anonymous) folklore tradition. (Pushkarëva 1990, 81-82; 85)

As mentioned earlier, the real meanings of the texts in the personal songs are not necessarily meant to be understood by outsiders. The overt impression can be very sketchy and laconic, but those who know the singer and the song, can relate the text to its real meaning. The following is the opening passage of a personal song of a woman from Southern Yamal:

Example 5. (307Kb, 27 sec.) Wanoy' syo.
Performed by Angelina Seroteta, Yar-Sale, 1991. Recording by J. Niemi.
Transcription of the text, translation into Russian and commentary by Elena Susoy.
Further transcription, translation into English and transcription of the singing by J. Niemi.

Wanoyey' masy(à)nyow ngey",                         It is Wanoy' herself talking (asking herself):
- ngamgendey(yà) ye"em(à)nya ngey,                  - Why did (I)
samblyangg(ey-ye) habtar(à)ka ngeym',                  five reindeer-bulls
podyermey ngeba"nyi ngey?                              harness?
masyey" ngenggowake,                                   Perhaps
ngemyey ngenggowake,                                   My leg
nangedyow ngenggo(wake?),                             would be unhurt?
many(yey) taryem' madeym',                               I say like this:
- masyi" ngedokiyey,                                   - Perhaps this,
ngemyi malyeywamyi(m?)                              that I broke my leg, is a sin?

The singer recounts, that she has harnessed five reindeers to her sledge, in order to drive somewhere. However, she complains that her leg is broken. Her leg seems to have been broken in a slight accident with the reindeer sledge during the drive. But this is not necessarily true, and not the whole story. In fact she is complaining that if she had not gone for drive, her leg and maybe the sledge would not have been broken. Why did she go in the first place, then? It seems, that she had some intimate affairs with someone in the tundra... And maybe she was married already...