various artists,
(Inukshuk, 2001)

There is a wealth of music tradition in the northern regions of Canada. On this special recording the Inuit share much of theirs with us. This compilation borrows tracks from five recordings: Nunavik Concert, Inuit Artist World Show Case, Tuhaalruuqtut, Katutjatut and Laina Tallaugak.

I enjoyed this CD. I really expected to be completely bored by the whole thing, but the music certainly had as much life and colour as any other folk tradition. I think a lot of people are going to be excited by the new releases coming out by these artists.

I have great pride in the Gaelic tradition of mouth music, but the women in the far north have a strong tradition of their own. Theirs is called throat singing. Two women face each other holding arms and both either in unison or alternately, create the sounds deep in their throats. Like any music, it is self entertainment but can easily become part of a performance for others. Often the piece ends in laughter because the singing tickles the throat.

There's a short drama piece that I didn't understand a word of because it's in another language, but laughter in the audience means that somebody understood and enjoyed it.

Beautiful young voices in the fifth cut, "Arnalkakuluju," sounded a lot like the beautiful voice of Susan Igluquart. Then the older ladies took a turn.

Voices and drums carry the night. Some pieces are accompanied by guitar, and some by drum, but vocals are raw and harmonic. By far, and I kid you not, the best cut is "Dog Chewing Lemming" done by Lucy Kownak and Emily Alerk. It's the rhythm that will captivate you.

As talented as the musicians and singers are, it is the tradition of the music that's the focus here. Some of the tracks are explained in short English sound clips. Though I think the legacy of the land of the midnight sun cannot be understood unless you've walked its snowy trails, a little piece of the experience can be appreciated through a CD like this one.

Though the only radio stations that play this music are probably all above the 60th parallel, it doesn't mean the music can't be enjoyed by a wider audience. If you have adventurous taste and a lot of imagination, this is a totally new creative experience. Otherwise, it is probably beyond your limits of appreciation.

[ by Virginia MacIsaac ]
Rambles: 5 October 2002

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