Performer (throat singing)

I would like to talk about an aspect of our Inuit culture in Nunavik: throat singing. It is one of my talents, and I will talk about how proud I am to keep this amazing tradition alive, a tradition that goes back to my ancestors. I am 30 years old and I started to learn how to throat sing when I was 13. I was very amazed when I heard it for the first time when our elders started to teach young kids including me. Our elders, Mary Sivuarapik, Aullak Tullaugak, Leela Qalingo, Lucy Amarualik and Nellie Nungak, taught us and told stories about throat singing. It is still very much alive and it is passed on to younger generations.

Today, we are asked to throat sing at every local event and in other communities. At Christmas time, at the Snow Festival, organized by our recreation committee every two years, at opening ceremonies, people do not want to miss throat singing because they really love to hear it. Some travel around the world to show our culture; it is one of my dreams to go to another country. Good thing I have a passport, if ever I am asked to go sing. Our teachers told us about their trip to Paris when they were younger, which is an inspiration for me. They first started to sing when they were kids, when they still lived in igloos and tents.

Inuit were nomads, moving around with the seasons and following animals. There were no sounds other than nature and animals, and the only musical sound was throat singing along with the drums made with seal skins. So, by imitating the only sounds they heard—wind, birds, the sounds of their handiwork—the women would throat sing. It was also a lullaby to put a baby to sleep.

Throat singing is mostly performed by women. Two women face each other, sometimes watching each other’s mouths, sometimes the eyes, and alternate rhythmic humming through the throat. If the women keep eye contact, both may at one point burst out laughing. In the case of a competition, the one who laughs first loses. One type of song is called qimmiruluapik (“puppy” in Inuktitut), because that word is repeated, or hummed, by the two singers. There are many songs that imitate animals: one imitates the sound of geese, and it really does sound like geese. Another imitates the sound of sawing wood; this is a favorite of spectators. Some songs follow a tune.

We hope more youths learn and keep this beautiful tradition alive. It’s part of our culture we share proudly with the world. My desire is to teach our younger generation and make young girls proud of themselves by throat singing.