Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thursday Thirteen: Inuit throat singing

For Thursday Thirteen this week, I am going to post about something I JUST learned about: Inuit Throat Singing.

Let me just say I know absolutely nothing about this other than what I have found about it on the internet today, but I am fascinated.
Here's what I learned mostly from Wikipedia (forgive me if I'm wrong, I'm still learning):
1. Traditionally when the Inuit men were away on a hunting trip, the women left at home would entertain themselves with games once all the chores were done, which may have involved throat singing. It was a way of socializing and having fun.
2. Two women face each other usually in a standing position. One singer leads by setting a short pattern which she repeats leaving brief silent intervals between each repetition. The other singer fills in the gap with another rhythmic pattern.
3. Calling it "singing" is misleading. There are typically no words, but sounds which may be actual words or nonsense syllables or created during exhalation.
4. Usually the "song" lasts up to three minutes until one of the singers starts to laugh or is left breathless.
I found the following information here:
5. Throat-singing is found in other parts of the world. For example, among the Xosa of South Africa, as well as among few other Siberian peoples, such as the Chukchi from the far north of Russia or the Ainu of Northern Japan. Inuit throat singing is different than its Mongolian and Tuvan counterparts.
6. In many regions, throat-singing was forbidden by Christian priests for many decades. (Gotta love Christianity!)
7. Evie Mark is a throat singer who was interviewed about her talent and I will use her quotes as the next few points. She said the following (her complete interview is found at the link above).
"Throat-singing is a very accurate technique in a sense that when you are singing fast, the person who is following the leader has to go in every little gap the leader leaves for her to fill in. For instance, if I was to say 1 + 1 + 1 + 1, the ones being what I sing and the pluses the gaps, she would go in-between the ones, singing on the pluses. Then, if I change my rhythm, this woman has to follow that change of rhythm and fill in the gaps of that new rhythm. She has to be very accurate. She has to have a very good ear and she has to follow visually what I am doing."
8. "Throat singing is not exactly easy on your diaphragm. You are using a lot of your muscles in your diaphragm for breathing in and breathing out. I have to find a space between sounds to breath in in order for me to throat-sing for 20 minutes or more. 20 minutes has been my maximum length of time to throat-sing. You have to focus on your lungs or your diaphragm. If you throat-sing using mainly breathing, you are gonna hyperventilate, you're gonna get dizzy and damage your throat."
9. "In September 2001 in Puvernituk in Nunavik there was the first Throat-Singing Conference that ever happened on Inuit throat-singing. It was very successful. There were throat-singers from all ages, young people to the elders. There was a lot of exchanges between everyone. A lot of the elders were able to tell the younger singers "Don't add contemporary music to throat-singing." The youth replied "No we've got to follow the change of life, while keeping our traditional throat singing." The elders were much encouraged and pleased because young people showed that they wanted to learn from them and they were encouraged to keep going. So, there was a lot of good communications. "

10. " At this festival, what was the most fascinating for me was that we heard different throat-singing techniques from different parts of Canada. It was amazing for me. Some people were singing as if they were whispering. To me, this singing was like a great boom, a great spirit that was whispering with a very strong voice, even though it sounded like whispering. I was completely mesmerized. "
11. "Inuit people have lost so much in a very little time. What we lost, we really lost it. We lost it to religion, we lost it to development, we lost to settling down the Western way. And the youth like me never saw those changes, but my grandmother saw those changes, my mother saw those changes. I was already born when those changes were already there, so for me it was normal. What is pretty sad is that they also lost a lot of things that we don't know about. But throat-singing is such a strong tradition that it probably didn't want to die. It's probably not us who brought it to life again. I think it was so strong that it didn't want to die. So, I think it is coming back to us. We are not going back to it. It don't think it ever left us, I think we left it. And since it's so unique, so strong, it never died."
12. The reason I posted about this today having only just learned about it is that think it is amazing. There is so much in this world that we don't know about other cultures and so much that has been stripped away over time. To find something like this makes me happy because I feel like I am learning and I think it is great that there is a movement to reclaim culture.


Cami said...

Truly amazing!!! Thank you for educating me!

Rikki said...

Wow, Id never heard of this before. Thanks. You are right, it is sad that we only know so little of the world around us. Thanks for visiting my TT. Have a good weekend.

Heather said...

Interesting topic! It's good that at least some aspect of the Inuit people has been left in tact. Too many native tongues on this continent have been completely wiped out.

Thanks for visiting my blog this afternoon!


Lazy Daisy said...

wow, I've never heard of such a thing. It was fascinating. thanks !

Norma said...

Very interesting.