Monday Morning Musings

Posted on November 2, 2020 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

Lights on ice (This photo is on the ceiling of the entrance to the primary side of the school)


Music has been an essential part of my life. It is right up there with oxygen and water. My earliest memories are of growing up in a musical household. Before we had television (I’m dating myself!), we sat around the piano with our parents and sang songs from all genres of music. When I was a teenager I played in a band. In my twenties, I learned how to play the guitar one cold winter up in the Peace River country of Alberta. I’ve been playing and singing ever since. My children are musical and I note that the next generation is coming along nicely as my grandchildren are learning to play various instruments.

Of course, I always have a tune rattling around my brain. Lately, my “earworm” is the wonderful song, Taanisi by Twin Flames. The lyrics are in Inuktitut and English. I particularly like this line: “Life is short, life is short, life is way too friggin short”. Ain’t that the truth.

One of my colleagues, a terrific educator, stopped in to see me a few days ago after class. In her hands was a compilation of Inuit songs called “Inuitartists. Inuit Inngirtit”. It was produced by the Department of Education of the Government of the Northwest Territories. It is a treasure trove of history and music and features the works of distinguished Inuit musicians. I hope Taqa will teach me a few of these songs.

I thought my loyal readers might be interested in learning about the history of Inuit music. Following is a paraphrasing of the introduction to the book.

“All reports of the early period seems to indicate that any musical activity formed an integral part of other activities that took part in the daily lives of the Inuit. Life dependencies were few and simple. One either enjoyed good health , or lacking this, one hastened towards the final end so there were incantations to the spirits to have and maintain good health. Good weather would facilitate the hunter in his search for food and it was crucial that the hunt be a success: there were songs to bear out these themes.

Organized war or blood feuds were beyond the conception of the Inuit. However, in settling personal disputes, the discontented parties would engage in a song duel. A song duel was a public affair. Instead of fighting, two men may compete with each other in songs of ridicule. The audience was therefore the sole judge. (I’m trying to visualize and alto and a tenor going toe to toe in the choir loft!)

When singing, quite often they employed the technique of repetition. Certain phrases would be repeated for effect. Incantation, repetition, and repetition done in a slow tempo makes for an indelible impression not only on the singer but on those within audible range.

When the missionaries showed up,  among the activities or ceremonies that were labelled as ‘not good’ and discouraged by them was the music of the early Inuit. The music specifically was not tabooed, but since activities which incorporated music were, the Inuit played it safe and suppressed any musical undertaking.

Along with the missionaries, other groups of people visited the Arctic They brought with them their own music. Country music with its roots in southern white , rural America merged with the regional folk music of west and southwest America in the twenties to become ‘Country and Western’ music. Decades later this type of music became popular in the prairie provinces. Workers from these provinces may have taken the music to the western arctic. Some of this was filtered to the eastern arctic. (This helps to explain why a student recently asked me to sing a Johnny Cash song) Long before this, Scottish music had also found its way into the north aboard the whaling ships. Eventually the Inuit developed a taste for the sounds of the new settlers and visitors. Country and Western and Scottish music became popular. It was almost as though these new sounds legitimized music again.

It should come as no surprise then to find traces of ‘folk’ music, be it Country and Western or Scottish, in the material that is presently being rendered by Inuit artists. In spite of this influence though, there remains a distinct uniqueness about contemporary Inuit music. As a significant factor, the language dictates certain rhythmic patterns peculiar only to the Inuit.”

I hope you found this as interesting an informative as I did.

Maybe I’ll bring my kilt back after Christmas. On second thought, maybe I won’t. Might be a tad chilly singing Scottish songs at -50!

“Inusi aninaluarma

Inusi aninaluarma”

(Life is so precious

Life is so precious)

Have a great week.

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Highland Hearing Clinic

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