In traditional katajjaq, also known as Inuit throat singing, two women stand face to face and perform a duet that doubles as something of a musical battle. Chanting in rhythm, participants attempt to outlast one another, each waiting for any crack in the pace of her opponent – whether in the form of loss of breath, fatigue or laughter. Dating back many hundreds of years, the practice was originally a pastime for women while men were away on hunts. And, although it was prohibited or discouraged by Christian missionaries, in recent decades katajjaq has seen a resurgence – embraced by the Inuit people as part of their cultural heritage, and inspiring musicians across the globe.
Throat Singing in Kangirsuk, which screened at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, has been part of this katajjaq revival. Produced by the Canada-based First Nations film initiative Wapikoni Mobile, the short features Manon Chamberland and Eva Kaukai, two teenage throat singers from the remote Inuit village of Kangirsuk in northern Québec, facing off in a friendly katajjaq duel. The film pairs shots of the duo trading chants against a barren snowscape with sweeping imagery of their community across four seasons. The result is a spirited celebration of this distinctive, enduring piece of Inuit culture.
Directors: Manon Chamberland, Eva Kaukai
Website: Wapikoni Mobile