Two Inuit songwriters pick up Indigenous Music Awards

But event still overshadowed by debate on cultural appropriation

Beatrice Deer, left, won an Indigenous Music Award for Best Folk Album, while Angela Amarualik, right, won Best Inuit, Indigenous Language or Francophone Album. The IMAs hosted their gala awards night on Friday, May 17. (Handout photos)

By Sarah Rogers

Two Inuit songwriters took home top honours from the Indigenous Music Awards at a gala hosted last week in Winnipeg.

Nunavut singer-songwriter Angela Amarualik brought home Best Inuit, Indigenous Language or Francophone Album for her new self-titled, Inuktitut-language album. Amarualik had also been nominated for Best New Artist in this year’s IMAs.

And Nunavik performer Beatrice Deer won Best Folk Album for her record My All To You at the May 17 awards gala. Her track Fox was also nominated in the Best Music Video category.

Pangnirtung-raised songwriter Aasiva (Colleen Nakashuk) has also been nominated for Best Folk Album and Best New Artist in this year’s IMAs.

You can see the full list of this year’s IMA winners here.

A number of other Inuit artists had initially been nominated for awards at this year’s IMAs but opted to boycott the event as a protest against a Cree artist’s use of throat singing.

Connie LeGrande, who performs as Cikwes, has experimented with throat singing in some of her work, saying she learned the technique from Tanya Tagaq. Cikwes’ album ISKO was nominated for Best Folk Album this year.

That prompted a handful of Inuit performers, including Tagaq, Kelly Fraser, Kathleen Merritt (Iva) and Piqsiq to pull their participation from this year’s awards, calling on the organization that runs the event, the Manito Ahbee Festival, to address the issue.

A newly formed collective of Inuit women artists, called the Arnaqquasaaq Collective, also put out a statement. The group’s position is that throat singing is a uniquely Inuit creation, not to be performed by other groups.

“This non-Inuk has taken advantage of an intangible heritage that is owned and protected by Inuit,” the statement read.

“We believe the IMAs have the power to correct their mistakes. A public apology from the IMAs is their first step to making good on recent wrongs.”

For its part, the IMAs said the issue needed “great reflection,” and allowed Cikwes’ nomination to stand.

“We have not dismissed this matter in any capacity,” the organization said in response to the concerns raised by Inuit groups last month. “We recognize the importance of building representation and programming that shares common values.”

The IMAs has said it intends to add an Inuit representative to its board of governors at its next AGM, as well as develop a policy on cultural appropriation for all artists submitting their work to the awards.

Share This Story

(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by Raymond Kaslak on

    The type of Inuit throat-singing in question is not the traditional type of throat singing.

  2. Posted by Tommy on

    Does that mean Qallunaat shouldn’t be kayaking or making igloos anymore? Or they shouldn’t wear traditional Inuit clothing anymore? How sensitive should Inuit go that far? If they PERSONALLY invented throat singing, then their defense to keep it to themselves would be understandable. Remember, women of old competed with their throatsinging. Today, it is just for entertainment. Let others learn it without prejudice. Entice throatsinging to the world, as kayaks, igloos, and ulus have.

    • Posted by Happy Ending on

      I think this is great, i’m glad space was made for these talented women to show their stuff! Thanks to Tanya and her acolytes!


  3. Posted by #Woke Folk on

    Here we see the myth of cultural purity being fostered and weaponized largely in the interests of status and economics. Embedded in this grievance and this discourse are a limiting set of rules about who gets to discuss the issue at all. On another level (and probably more importantly) this drama is cover for the monopolization of a niche market. In reality cultures are fluid and pure distillate type forms do not exist, and we are all better for that fact. I would go so far as to suggest that those who wish to claim exclusive rights over preposterous notions like, “who gets to utter what sounds” will in the end lose those traditions to antiquity and extinction.

  4. Posted by David on

    The group’s position is that throat singing is a uniquely Inuit creation, not to be performed by other groups.
    Here is the Smithsonian Institute’s definition of throat singing:Throat-singing is a “guttural style of singing or chanting” and “one of the world’s oldest forms of music” according to a Smithsonian Folkways webpage about the culture surrounding it ( In the Western world, most people only hear or imagine singers to be singing one note at a time, however we have multiple vocal chords that can actually produce different pitches simultaneously. Throat-singing is most often seen in the countries of Central Asia—especially among the Tuvans on the Southern Russia/Northern Mongolian border. However there are two other groups, the Xhosa people of southeastern South Africa and the Inuit of Northern Canada, who also practice throat-singing in different settings and among different groups of performers. Throat-singing even has a place in popular music and television—we shall see some examples later in this post.

    Uniquely Inuit? Hmmmmmmmmm…………………

  5. Posted by Northern Guy on

    There is nothing about Inuit throat singing that sets it apart from the MANY other forms of throat singing practiced across the world. Anyone with even a basic understanding of anthropology knows that throat singing has been, and continues to be, used by many different cultures in a variety of locations around the globe. One is able to experience throat singing in places like: Africa, Eastern and Central Asia, Mongolia, and Arctic/Sub-Arctic Russia. Indeed, the chanting of Buddhist monks in Tibet is in itself a form of throat singing. For the Arnaqquasaaq Collective to claim otherwise is narrow-minded and misinformed.

  6. Posted by Bravo! on

    I’m glad the IMAs allowed Cikwes’ nomination to stand and did not succumb to the dictates of Tanya and her cabal

    Congratulations to the winners!

  7. Posted by MyTwoCents…OhWaitThisIsCanada….MyNickel I guess. on

    Many cultures have throat singing but no one can say “Throat singing is our’s. You’re not allowed!” It’s origin is in Asia, this is known. Another good point is that emulation is a form of flattery. I bet the lady who is throat singing has a great deal of respect for Inuit, or whomever taught her to throat sing. So much respect for the art form that she became knowledgeable and skilled at it in order to help bring it to a wider audience. Tanya Tagaq needs to start doing something positive with her celebrity, rather then only use it to rile up the public using negativity without offering any sort of resolution to whatever the her current agenda happens to be. It always “I’m MAD, look at Me!” with her. The real tragedy is that I believe her heart is in exactly the right place, she just has no idea how to use love, instead of anger, as the resolution. Annnnnd Kelly Fraiser…. what the heck there…. it doesn’t even make sense… didn’t she get popular with a cover song? Literally translated someone else’s song into Inuktitut and promoted herself with it…

  8. Posted by Brand Protection on

    The Arnaqquasaaq Collective states that Tanya’s form of throat singing is something created uniquely by her. Yet in one of her tweets Tanya claims “this form was unique to Inuit culture”. Which is it? It doesn’t seem traditional at all, not that it has to be, but I think we should recognize this entire episode for what it really is, Tanya protecting her own brand.

Comments are closed.