Music

Traditional Inuit music was used as entertainment, as a game, as a means of story telling, as well as during certain ceremonies.  The music is mainly based on the sound of drums and the singing and chanting of Inuit themselves. There are three basic music forms for traditional Inuit music from the Arctic: throat songs, drum dance and a-ja-ja songs.

Courtesy of Hans Blohm

Image © hans-ludwig blohm c.m. mpa

Throat singing varies depending on which part of the Arctic it is being practiced in.  A famous type of throat singing is when two women face each other, and perform a duet (katajjait) together.  The two women make rhythmic noises that sound guttural; they developed this technique through manipulating their breath. Sometimes these throat songs tell stories, but more often than not they are noises and rhythms that are inspired by sounds from nature or sounds from the singers’ surroundings.  To watch an Inuit throat song, see here: http://icor.ottawainuitchildrens.com/node/25

A drum dance song is singing accompanied by vocals known as ingmerneq.  Many times, drum dances will tell a story.  These stories are funny, or tell about things that have happened in the past.  Drums (Qilautit) were traditionally made from animal skins and bones.  Today, many Inuit buy drums or make them from man-made materials.  These drums are played with drumsticks (usually just one) made from bones- traditionally, a walrus rib was used.

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A-ja-ja songs oftentimes use drums as well, but sometimes are only vocals. Listen to an a-ja-ja song here that is only the singer’s voice:

Can you hear the singer saying “a-ja-ja” ? Here is another version of the a-ja-ja song, this time accompanied by drums:

Echoes of traditional Inuit music may still be heard in contemporary Inuit music.