Throat Singing In Inuit CultureWritten by Clint Leung
Originally, Inuit throat singing was a form of entertainment among Inuit women while men were away on hunting trips. It was an activity that was primarily done by Inuit women although there have been some men doing it as well. In Inuit language Inuktitut, throat singing is called katajjaq, pirkusirtuk or nipaquhiit depending on Canadian Arctic region. It was regarded more as a type of vocal or breathing game in Inuit culture rather than a form of music.
Inuit throat singing is generally done by two individuals but can involve four or more people together as well. 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 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. Sounds produced can be voiced or unvoiced and produced by inhalation or exhalation. Both Inuktitut words and meaningless syllables are used in Inuit throat singing songs. However, when words are used in throat singing, no particular meaning is placed on them for a song. When meaningless syllables are used, they are often portrayals of sounds Inuit hear in their natural environment such as animal sounds or even water running down a creek. Popular Inuit throat singing songs are usually identified by first word or sound that is produced in each song.
Inuit throat singing is a skill that has to be taught and developed. Inuit throat singers try to show their vocal abilities in a fun competitive manner and first one to either run out of breath, stop or laugh is declared loser of game. Each game usually lasts from one to three minutes. In a group of Inuit women, overall winner is one who beats largest number of her competitors in this fun filled activity.
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