EDMONTON—Several Inuk artists are boycotting the Indigenous Music Awards over concerns about cultural appropriation of Inuit throat singing.
Tanya Tagaq, Tiffany Ayalik, and Kayley Inuksuk Mackay (who perform as PIQSIQ), Kathleen Ivaluarjuk Merritt (who performs as IVA), and Kelly Fraser have all posted messages on social media saying they would not support, submit music to or perform at the Indigenous Music Awards, which takes place in Winnipeg on May 17.
PIQSIQ has pulled its album Altering the Timeline from the awards, which is nominated for best electronic album, while Tagaq said she would not be attending or performing at the awards.
Fraser, from Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, told Star Edmonton that she and the other artists asked the Indigenous Music Awards to remove an album by a non-Inuit artist that includes throat singing and is nominated in the best folk album category. She declined to name the artist.
She says the request was ignored.
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“For more than a month we’ve been in contact trying to ask them to remove the album because of cultural appropriation. Even though we’re all Indigenous doesn’t mean someone who is not Inuk can take from our culture and make money off it,” Fraser said.
She said her frustration is more directed at the Indigenous Music Awards than the artist.
“It’s not about the artist, it’s about the fact that the Indigenous Music Awards are allowing this, and are so unconcerned with this cultural appropriation,” she said.
She says a non-Inuk artist incorporating throat singing into her music takes away from Inuk artists and is disrespectful to Inuit culture.
“She doesn’t know what throat singing means … She’s making mimicking noises and it’s disrespectful,” Fraser said.
The Yellowknife-raised sisters behind PIQSIQ said in an interview their decision was spurred by the IMA’s nomination of a non-Inuit artist who performs throat singing, which they view as an “insensitive” appropriation of their culture.
Mackay and Ayalik said they wanted to focus on the broader issue of appropriation between Indigenous groups.
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“In cultural practices like throat singing, which were just about extinct and are now in a creative reclamation, there’s so much context that’s lost if it’s appropriated rather than collaborated with,” Mackay said by phone from Sudbury, Ont.
A spokesman for the IMAs did not provide comment Monday.
Ayalik emphasized that there are vast variations between Indigenous cultures, even in communities as close as 50 kilometres apart, and each deserves to be respected.
“We aren’t all one big group; and just as distinct as Scottish culture is from Norwegian culture, we’re just as different between Indigenous groups.”
The awards ceremony is set to be held in Winnipeg on May 17 as part of the annual Manito Ahbee Festival.
With files from The Canadian Press
Omar Mosleh is an Edmonton-based reporter covering inner-city issues, affordable housing and reconciliation. Follow him on Twitter: @OmarMosleh