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 Throat Singing In Inuit Culture 
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Post Throat Singing In Inuit Culture
Throat Singing In Inuit Culture
By Clint Leung

Originally, Inuit throat singing was a form of entertainment
among Inuit women while the men were away on hunting trips. It
was an activity that was primarily done by Inuit women although
there have been some men doing it as well. In the Inuit
language Inuktitut, throat singing is called katajjaq,
pirkusirtuk or nipaquhiit depending on the Canadian Arctic
region. It was regarded more as a type of vocal or breathing
game in the Inuit culture rather than a form of music.

Inuit throat singing is generally done by two individuals but
can involve four or more people together as well. In Inuit
throat singing, two Inuit women would face each other either
standing or crouching down while holding each other's arms.
One would lead with short deep rhythmic sounds while the other
would respond. The leader would repeat sounds with short gaps
in between. The follower would fill in these gaps with her own
rhythmic sounds. Sometimes both Inuit women would be doing a
dance like movement like rocking from left to right while
throat singing. Sounds produced can be voiced or unvoiced and
produced by inhalation or exhalation. Both Inuktitut words and
meaningless syllables are used in Inuit throat singing songs.
However, when words are used in throat singing, no particular
meaning is placed on them for a song. When meaningless
syllables are used, they are often portrayals of sounds the
Inuit hear in their natural environment such as animal sounds
or even water running down a creek. Popular Inuit throat
singing songs are usually identified by the first word or sound
that is produced in each song.

Inuit throat singing is a skill that has to be taught and
developed. Inuit throat singers try to show their vocal
abilities in a fun competitive manner and the first one to
either run out of breath, stop or laugh is declared the loser
of the game. Each game usually lasts from one to three
minutes. In a group of Inuit women, the overall winner is the
one who beats the largest number of her competitors in this fun
filled activity.

Unfortunately, there is no written record of when the Inuit
first developed their form of throat singing which differs from
the type found in Mongolia and other parts of the world that has
some form of throat singing. The Inuit did not keep any written
records and history was simply passed down from generation to
generation orally. It was reported that at one point in time,
Inuit women would actually have their lips almost touching
while using each other's mouth cavity as a sound resonator.
This technique is not used anymore.

Inuit throat singing was actually forbidden by Christian
priests for almost 100 years but since this religious ban was
lifted, there has been a resurfacing of this traditional
activity in the Inuit communities during the last 20 to 30
years. Interestingly enough, there has been a lot of interest
among the younger Inuit generations in this revival in addition
to the Inuit elders who are trying to bring throat singing back
as part of present Inuit culture. Many of the young Inuit
women who have taken up throat singing claim that it is a way
for them to express their Inuit identities in the modern world
where many Inuit traditions have already been lost. The
revival of Inuit throat singing has been so popular that in
September of 2001, the first throat singing conference was held
in Puvernituk, Nunavik where different types of Inuit throat
singing from different Arctic regions of Canada were
demonstrated and shared. There has even been a small number of
Inuit throat singing CDs produced.

About the Author: Clint Leung is owner of Free Spirit Gallery , an online gallery
specializing in Inuit Eskimo and Northwest Native American art
including carvings, sculpture and prints. Free Spirit Gallery
has numerous information resource articles with photos of
authentic Inuit and Native Indian art as well as free eCards.


This article was posted by permission.

Wed Jul 11, 2007 11:33 am
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