Traditionally, throat singing was a game Inuit women would play to pass time while the men were away, hunting and gathering for their families. The game is simple and it goes a little something like this:
Two women stand facing one another, while holding each others arms. One woman begins with a short rhythmic pattern, while the other fills the silent gaps with a complimenting pattern of her own. Typically, the women can be seen doing a small shuffle, or dance, amid the competition. The women continue until one cannot keep up with the other, either running out of breath or losing concentration. The goal? It’s easy, beat the most challengers. The tones and sounds coming from each woman alternate between an earthly rumble from the lungs and small escapes from the throat. Anyone watching for the first time might mistake this as an act of intimidation or dominance, but it’s far from that. The game is light-hearted, often ending in laughter and a loving embrace.
The game and the women that aspirate this form of art, really captivated me. I remember seeing two young girls perform for our new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, during his swearing in. I never caught the name of what they were doing, but I couldn’t deny being interested in their audible exchange. These young girls, with full lungs and big smiles, completely unaware of how interesting this part of their life is. Spending my whole life in a Caucasian dominated west coast Canada, I know little about First Nations tradition. If I’m being candidly honest, I have never explored the culture past what was required of me in school. So naturally, I grew curious.
Upon reading more about this form of entertainment, I came across Tanya Tagaq, arguably the most successful Inuit throat singer of our time. This Nunavut-born solo artist has taken a piece of her heritage, transformed it into a genre of music, and owns it solely. Once I heard a few of her tracks, it became obvious why Bjork sought her out to sing on Medulla. It’s no surprise to discover she beat out the likes of Drake and Arcade Fire for the 2014 Polaris prize. Tanya has created a punk hybrid without losing the organic roots the original sound came from. It’s creepy, weird, and at times, hard to believe these deep vibrations are coming from a singular human. Nothing is more inspiring than a Canadian artist pushing boundaries and creating something that makes us take that second glance, willingly.
Tanya’s latest release is a single titled Aorta and personally, I think it’s her best work yet. Take a listen for yourself. Even if it doesn’t end up being your jam, you can come away saying you’re a little more ‘cultured’ at Sunday brunch with your hipster friends.
[Written in response to writing excercise: Voice]