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Inuit throat singing is more than music—it’s friendly competition between two singers trying to go the longest without laughing or stopping for breath.

Inuit Throat Singing

Because the Inuit recorded their history by telling stories rather than writing them down, it’s hard to tell exactly how throat singing originated. We do know that it was a game that women played, which supports the theory that it was invented as a kind of entertainment when the men were away hunting. Because each game evolves differently as the singers explore vocal rhythms and harmonies and try to imitate the sounds of the arctic wind, sea and land, it would have been a game that was fun to play again and again. Unlike most cultural forms of music, throat singing sometimes requires performers to sing more than one note at the same time using complicated vocal techniques. In the 1900s, a number of Christian missionaries attempted to suppress Inuit culture by banning throat singing in various areas. When the bans were later lifted, Canada saw a major popular resurgence in throat singing, both in Inuit communities and Canada at large.

Discussion Questions

What are some of the unique characteristics of Inuit throat singing?

How do you think that a ban on Inuit throat singing would affect Inuit culture? What are other examples you can think of where music is used as a game or an activity?

Resources

National Geographic. “Canada: Throat Singers.” http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/places/countries-places/canada-tc/inuit-throat-singing-eorg/

Watchers of the North. “A Short History of Throat Singing, Part 1.” http://www.watchersofthenorth.com/home/node/369

 

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