Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Inuit Throat Singing

“Throat Singers” by Archie Ishulutak of Iqaluit
"Originally, Inuit throat singing was a form of entertainment among Inuit women while the 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 the Inuit language Inuktitut, throat singing is called katajjaq, pirkusirtuk or nipaquhiit depending on the Canadian Arctic region. It was regarded more as a type of vocal or breathing game in the 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 the 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." -Free Spirit Gallery

Variations of throat singing is also practiced world-wide in Tibet, Mongolia, Russia, Siberia and South Africa.
Below is a list of regions and explanations of style by Bernard Dubreuil & Steve Sklar:

Tibet: Tibetans were among the first to be acknowledged for their throat singing. Tibetan monks use it during Buddhist chanting ceremonies. They use only one type which produces one low tone (somewhere between 75-90 Hz), plus a second tone one octave above that (100Hz) and also one overtone drone, usually the fifth overtone of the low tone (around 300 Hz). In regular Tibetan folk singing, throat singing is not used.

Tuva: The Tuvan were able to develop five different styles of throat singing: khoomei, kargyraa, sygyt, borbangnadyr and ezengileer. Khoomei is the basic style and is soft sounding, producing two or more notes. Kargyraa is similar to Tibetan chanting, and produces low tones rich in harmonics. There are several styles of kargyraa. The most often used are mountain kargyraa and steppe kargyraa. Sygyt is the most particular style of throat singing. We hear a strong and piercing melody of harmonics. It has a flutelike tone. It is also the hardest to produce. Borbangnadyr and Ezengileer involve complex manipulations of the lips, tongue and throat to produce trills, vibrato, tremolo and other sounds. Throat singing is traditionally sung by men, although, women have now begun to learn it.

Mongolia, Khakkasia and Bashkortostan: Khakkasia is a republic east of Tuva whose people are of Mongolian descent (while the Tuvans are of Turkic origin). Bashkortostan is north-west of Tuva. It is believed that throat singing was first practised by the Mongolians. Throat singing is practised in the three regions, but mainly in the khoomei style of the Tuvan. In fact, the word "khoo" in the Tuvan means "throat." In Mongolia too, throat singing is traditionally sung by men.

Other Siberian Peoples: The Chukchi, an almost unknown people of the Russian Far North, above the Arctic Circle, also developed throat singing. They use it to represent the breathing of the reindeer in their folksongs. The guttural sounds are made by women. It is not known if they developed the technique on their own or if they were influenced by people further south. Several other Siberian peoples practise throat singing, though it is still unclear if they developed it on their own or imported it from neighboring countries. When the practice began is also unknown.

Xosa, South Africa: Xosa throat singing is practised by women. Two notes one tone apart are produced, while three overtones for each note are amplified, thus giving a 6-tone scale.

Inuit of Northern Canada, Ainu of Northern Japan: The Inuit of Northern Canada have developed a form of throat singing that does not produce overtones per se. Called kattajjaq, it is, in fact, a rhythmic throat game that women use to entertain children during the long winter months. Two women face each other and each uses the mouth of the other as a kind of resonating chamber. This type of singing is also found in a different form among the Ainu who live on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, on the Russian island of Sakhalin and in the Kuril Islands, as well as among a few Siberian peoples of Eastern Siberia, with slight variations.

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