Thursday, March 31, 2011

Inuit throat singing

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I’ve always been fascinated with the Canadian north, and I’ve always wanted to go there.

One of the things I find interesting is Inuit throat singing. It sounds strange the first time you hear it, very primeval, but then you realize there is a pattern, and it’s very beautiful.

Originally, Inuit throat singing was a form of entertainment among Inuit women while the men were away on hunting trips. 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.

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.

The sounds would vary, and often would emulate sounds found in nature. The first woman to run out of breath, laugh or break the rhythmic sequence would be declared the loser of the game.

Sadly inuit throat singing was forbidden by Christian priests for nearly 100 years. Fortunately this ban was lifted some decades ago, and there has been a revival of this art form.

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