Nunavut duo throat-sing on a global stage
“We felt so lucky to be there”
When Annie Aningmiuq and Cynthia Pitsiulak first learned to throat-sing together, the pair hit it off immediately.
Aningmiuq, originally from Pangnirtung, and Pitsiulak, from Kimmirut, learned the skill while studying at Nunavut Sivuniksavut in 2004.
“We were really compatible — we had similar sounds, rhythms and techniques,” Aningmiuq recalled. “We complemented each other well.”
The duo worked so well together, they were able to answer a call from a German music festival looking for some Inuit talent in 2005. The young women called themselves the Katajaq Duo and went on to wow crowds at Klangwelten, a festival of world music held each year in Frankfurt, Germany.
“We felt so lucky to be there,” Aningmiuq said of the experience.
But the girls parted ways after graduation, and living in different parts of the country made it hard to keep the Katajaq Duo together.
That’s until Klangwelten launched its 25th anniversary festival in 2011, inviting its most popular acts back to the stage in Frankfurt.
This time, the festival’s invitation found both throat-singers in Ottawa, where Aningmiuq, 27, works as a health programs coordinator for Pauktuutit and Pitsiulak as a co-producer at the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation. (Pitsiulak also sidelines with the Montreal-based hip hop and throat-singing project Tumivut.)
And with that, the Katajaq Duo fell back into synch. The women travelled back to Germany last November to play a whopping 40 shows for Klangwelten’s 25th anniversary, in what Aningmiuq describes as an exhausting but exciting adventure.
The Katajaq Duo played alongside a unique and multicultural line-up, including tabla players from India, jazz musicians from Cameroon and even another throatsinger from Mongolia.
And this time, the duo was able to really interact with their audience and fellow performers.
“The first time we played Klangwelten (in 2005), we were both really young and shy to talk about our experience,” Aningmiuq said. “But with this show, we were more confident and we talked to a lot of people.
“People wanted to know about how we make our sounds, so we did a lot of demonstrations.”
Aningmiuq said the duo performed both traditional songs and more contemporary melodies during their sets. At the end of the festival, all of Klangwelten’s musicians came together for a finale performance — an experience that showed both women about the “endless possibilities” of world music.
“We definitely feel lucky to have been chosen to take part in this,” Aningmiuq said. “It made me wish I could be a performer full-time, and do more of these festivals.”
Pitsiulak and Aningmiuq don’t have any immediate plans to perform at other events this year, but Aningmiuq said she hopes her Klangwelten experience can serve as an example to other young Inuit women.
“We really want to tell young girls that there are endless opportunities and that if you want them, you have to go and get them,” she said.