Sarah Rogers: Should non-Inuit performers be allowed to throat sing?

Nunavut artist Kelly Fraser is interviewed at the 2018 Indigenous Music Awards. But the singer-songwriter said she won’t submit any more work to the organization until they address issues of cultural appropriation. (Photo courtesy of IMA)

Should non-Inuit performers be allowed to throat sing?

Throat singing is not a “pan-Indigenous free for all,” says Tanya Tagaq

By Sarah Rogers

A group of Inuit artists say they plan to boycott this year’s Indigenous Music Awards over concerns around cultural appropriation.

These Nunavut musicians, including Tanya Tagaq, Kelly Fraser and Kathleen Merritt (Iva), say they won’t participate in this or other awards until the organization that runs the event, the Manito Ahbee Festival, addresses the use of throat singing by a non-Inuk performer.

Cree performer Cikwes experiments with throat singing in some of her work. Her album ISKO is nominated as best folk album at this year’s Indigenous Music Awards, set to be handed out at a May 17 ceremony in Winnipeg.

Inuit artists say throat singing is a uniquely Inuit creation, not to be performed by other groups.

Tagaq, one of Nunavut’s best-known throat singers, said the art form is not a “pan-Indigenous free for all,” in a post on social media.

“Due to issues surrounding cultural appropriation, I will not be performing at, attending, nor submitting my work to the IMAs unless they revise their policies or have Inuit representation on the board for consultation,” Tagaq tweeted on March 31.

Other performers have since followed suit, demanding the music awards rescind Cikwes’ nomination.

Both Kelly Fraser and Iva said they will no longer submit their work or agree to perform at the music awards until the organization addresses their concerns.

Nunavut-born, Yellowknife-based throat-singing duo Piqsiq pulled their album, which was nominated this year for the IMA’s best electronic album.

“We look forward to submitting future work once our concerns of cultural appropriation are taken seriously and policies are in place to prevent it from happening again,” the group tweeted earlier this week.

A handful of other Inuit artists are nominated for awards this year, including Beatrice Deer, Aasiva and newcomer Angela Amarualik.

For its part, the festival’s board of governors said submissions are judged and selected by a group of music industry voters, who do not disclose their heritage, 39 of whom selected the nominees in the folk album category this year.

Cikwes’ nomination will stand, the organization said in an April 2 news release.

“We don’t presume to agree or disagree on this matter at this time, as it requires great reflection, ceremony and discussions on how we move forward in a good way,” the IMA said in a release.

“We have not dismissed this matter in any capacity. We recognize the importance of building representation and programming that shares common values.”

The organization said it intends to add an Inuit representative to its board of governors at its next AGM, as well as develop a policy on cultural appropriation for all artists submitting to the awards.

Throat singing, or katajjaq, comes from a long oral tradition practised among Inuit women. Although it’s often performed today as entertainment, throat singing developed as a game played by two participants.

Throat singers make sounds imitating sounds in nature, carrying on a rhythm until one person laughs or loses their breath.

Throat singing was discouraged and essentially banned for many decades by Christian missionaries when they arrived in Inuit communities in the early 20th century, but the practice saw a revival in the 1980s.

In 2014, Quebec designated throat singing as a part of the province’s cultural heritage—the first designation of its kind.

https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/should-non-inuit-performers-be-allowed-to-throat-sing/

Fantastic Inuit throat singing on TV show (Veronica Usholik)

Fantastic Inuit throat singing on TV show (Veronica Usholik)

Ajoutée le 11 mars 2019

Name of this song is – “The birth of Chukotka” In this song we can see how she mix Inuit throat singing and Modern music. https://www.kuularmusic.com/ – throat singing online masterclass

JACQUELINE KANIA : The Phenomenon of Throat-Singing

The Phenomenon of Throat-Singing

 

Below is definitely one of the more memorable videos from class and my previous blog.  As unique as the performance is, the Inuit are not the only groups with this throat-singing tradition.

Click here to view the embedded video.

 

The Basics

 

Throat-singing is a “guttural style of singing or chanting” and “one of the world’s oldest forms of music” according to a Smithsonian Folkways webpage about the culture surrounding it (http://www.folkways.si.edu/explore_folkways/throat_singing.aspx).  In the Western world, most people only hear or imagine singers to be singing one note at a time, however we have multiple vocal chords that can actually produce different pitches simultaneously. Throat-singing is most often seen in the countries of Central Asia—especially among the Tuvans on the Southern Russia/Northern Mongolian border. However there are two other groups, the Xhosa people of southeastern South Africa and the Inuit of Northern Canada, who also practice throat-singing in different settings and among different groups of performers. Throat-singing even has a place in popular music and television—we shall see some examples later in this post.

The Smithsonian Folkways article goes into more detail about these groups. Let us take a look at the three primary practicing groups of throat-singing:

 

The Tuvans

 

Tuva is a predominantly rural region of Russia located northwest of Mongolia. They call throat-singing Khoomei. Khoomei performers are primarily male due to a superstition that throat-singing women will have fertility problems. They are also taught to throat sing from a young age. The Khoomei throat-singers use a form of circular breathing which allows them to sustain singular notes for longer periods of time. The Tuvans originate from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and the sounds they make, such as the Tuvan singing group Huun Huur Tu playing in the style of “Sygyt” (or “whistle”) below at a Philadelphia Folk Festival in 2006, are very reminiscent of the nature that surrounds them:

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

 

According to the article “Overtone Singing Music” on National Geographic’s Music webpage, the Tuvans separate various overtone styles into 3 categories based on what part of nature they imitate:  Sygyt, which imitates birds and breezes/gentle winds. Xoomei alludes to stronger winds, and kargyraa is meant to portray storms (http://worldmusic.nationalgeographic.com/view/page.basic/genre/content.genre/overtone_singing_763/en_US).

 

While not raised in the Tuvan culture, a YouTuber named Alex Glenfield has taught himself how to master several types of overtone singing.  In the video below he demonstrates 7 styles: the classic Khoomei style at :10, Sygyt at 1:08, Dag Kargyraa at 2:11, Steppe Kargyraa at 3:12, Ezenggileer at 4:05, Khoomei Borbangnadyr at 4:47, and the Chylandyyk at 5:35:

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

 

The Inuit

 

The Inuit are the indigenous native people of northern Canada. In contrast to the throat-singing of the Tuvans, Inuit throat-singing (also called katajjaq) is almost always performed by females.  It is often performed in groups of two or more women, and the techniques used are reliant upon staccato, rhythmic inhalations and exhalations of the breath. The tradition with Inuit folksinging originated as a competition or a game among female friends while the males were out hunting for the families. Over a century ago Inuit throat-singing was condemned by local Christian priests, but it is gaining a recent revival among the youth of Canada. Performers even submit throat-singing audition tapes to be shown at the Winter Olympic games.

 

The clip shown below is of two Inuit women, Janet Aglukkaq and Kathy Keknek, filming a throat-singing audition tape for the 2008 Winter Olympic Games:

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

 

The Xhosa

 

The Xhosa people of Bantu origins live and thrive in southeastern South Africa. Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu are famous Xhosas. Their style of deep throat-singing, called eefing, is composed of singing two notes that are only a step apart accompanying much higher notes simultaneously. The singing accompanies traditional call-and-response (antiphony) or group songs. The Xhosa often use these songs for joyful occasions such as parties and dances.

 

Shown below is a clip of Xhosa women practicing eefing:

Click here to view the embedded video.

 

Here is another clip. The blonde woman is Kendall, the assistant producer of a play called “MoLoRa” that is based in Johannesburg, South Africa. She enlists this Xhosa group of women, called Ngqoko, to help provide musical clips for her play. In her interview with them around 2:31, they begin harmonizing together:

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

 

Throat-Singing in the Western World/Culture:

 

Chances are if you have heard of throat-singing prior to this blog, you are a watcher of The Big Bang Theory, a well-known American sitcom series. In the episode “The Large Hadron Collision” one of the main characters Sheldon, a quirky but highly intelligent man, demonstrated his skill of Tuvan throat-singing:

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

 

The substyle of Tuvan throatsinging Sheldon performs above is Dag Kargyraa.

 

Throat-Singing has been sampled throughout a few popular Western artists’ songs as well. New-age and folk-tunes singer Bjork enlisted the help of Inuit throat-singer Tanya Tagaq in her song “Isobel” (Tanya Tagaq can be clearly heard starting around 2:30):

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

 

A blind blues guitarist named Paul Pena, who wrote the 1970’s Steve Miller Band hit “Jet Airliner” and was the former sideman to famous blues artists B.B. King and John Hooker, was listening and messing with the wires of his radio in 1984. He accidentally tuned into a station featuring the Khoomei throat-singing styles of Tuva, and was stunned. This occurrence started him into an 11-year journey to study throat-singing, and eventually he was able to master several styles and starred in a documentary called “Genghis Blues” (“Genghis” from the belief that many Tuvans were descendants of the infamous leader Genghis Khan.) The article about Paul Pena can be found on genghisblues.com under the article “Blind U.S. bluesman masters throat-singing of Tuva”.

 

Quick Summary:

 

To summarize this post, while throat-singing may not be extremely popular in the Western music and popular culture world, it is certainly not a new style by any means. I believe more artists (particularly new-age, country and blues artists) will begin to learn these techniques. I hope you have learned many new facts and have a new appreciation for this unique vocal style. Thanks for reading my final blog!

 

Works Cited:

Alex Glenfield. ” Seven Styles of Overtone Singing (Tuvan Throat Singing).”Online video clip.
YouTube. YouTube, 22 Mar. 2010. Web. 28 April 2013.

Ari Vineberg. ” Inuit throat-singers from Nunavik.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 08 Feb. 2011. Web. 28 April 2013.

“Blind U.S. bluesman masters throat-singing of Tuva.” Wadi Rum Productions. Genghis Blues, 1999. Web. 28 April 2013.

Cultureproject. ” “We can even teach you.” – Ngqoko Cultural Group.” Online video clip.
YouTube. YouTube, 15 July 2011. Web. 28 April 2013.

FrancesWindward. ” Inuit Throat Singing: Kathy Keknek and Janet Aglukkaq (long).” Online video clip.
YouTube. YouTube, 13 Dec. 2007. Web. 28 April 2013.

Kevinambjork. ” Björk-Isobel-Live at Belgium 2001-With Tanya Tagaq -Isobel-Live at Belgium 2001-With Tanya Tagaq.” Online video clip.
YouTube. YouTube, 26 Sep. 2011. Web. 28 April 2013.

Matias Martinez. ” Sheldon Cooper Throat Singing.” Online video clip.
YouTube. YouTube, 09 Feb. 2010. Web. 28 April 2013.

“Overtone Singing Music.” Bruce Miller. National Geographic Music, n.d. Web. 28 April 2013.

QuangHai Tran. “OVERTONE SINGING UMNGQOKOLO by Xhosa women from SOUTH AFRICA .” Online video clip.
YouTube. YouTube, 16 May 2012. Web. 28 April 2013.

Smithsonian Folkways. “Throat Singing:A unique vocalization from three cultures.” Smithsonian Folkways by the Smithsonian Institution (2013): n. pag. Web. 28 April 2013.

Tantsev. ” Huun Huur Tu at Philadelphia Folk Festival, August 2006.” Online video clip.
YouTube. YouTube, 15 Sep. 2006. Web. 28 April 2013.

Jean-Jacques Nattiez: Jeux de gorge inuit et chants de gorge sibériens : une approche comparative, historique et sémiologique

PARU SOUS LE TITRE «
INUIT THROAT GAMES AND SIBERIAN THROAT SINGING
: A COMPARATIVE, HISTORICAL AND SEMIOLOGICAL APPROACH».1999.
ETHNOMUSICOLOGY, VOL. XLIII, NO3 (AUTOMNE),p.399-418.
Jeux de gorge inuit et chants de gorge sibériens : une approche comparative, historique
et sémiologique
110746-jean-jacques-nattiez
Jean-Jacques Nattiez
(Université de Montréal)

 

http://www.sqrm.qc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Jeux-de-gorge-inuit-et-chants-de-gorge-siberiens-une-approche-comparative-historique-et-semiologique.pdf

Jean-Jacques Nattiez. Livre 11. La musique des Inuit du Canada

Jean-Jacques Nattiez. Livre 11. La musique des Inuit du Canada

Published on Sep 28, 2018

« Jean-Jacques Nattiez. Livre 11. La musique des Inuit du Canada » Monsieur Nattiez est professeur émérite de la faculté de musique de l’Université de Montréal (Montréal, Canada). Date : 8 mars 2016 (Montréal) Durée : 41min 19s Équipe de tournage Direction des entrevues : Frédéric Benjamin Laugrand Caméra : Emmanuel Luce Son : Anthony Melanson La série « Les Possédés et leurs mondes » est une production de la revue Anthropologie et Sociétés et du Département d’anthropologie de l’Université Laval, en partenariat avec la revue Anthropologica et la Société Canadienne d’anthropologie (CASCA). http://www.anthropologie-societes.ant… https://www.facebook.com/anthropologi…