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Anthony Easton

Anthony Easton is a critic, originally from Edmonton and now living in Hamilton, Ontario. They have written about music for the Atlantic Online, Buzzfeed, Stylus, Freaky Trigger, Red State Reader, Singles Jukebox, Pitchfork, Spin, and the National Post. They have a ThM from University of Toronto and a MA in Religious Studies from Concordia, in Montreal.

“Caught in the Throat: Some Problems of Inuit Musical Culture and the Canadian State”
For most of the 20th century, either by gross neglect or purposeful action, the government of Canada tried to make Inuit culture disappear. Traditionally nomadic people were often forcibly resettled into southern communities. Children were sent into residential schools, where their traditional social practices were actively erased. Ironically, their bodies were still often considered valuable, as in 1950, when 87 Inuit were moved farther north than their traditional hunting ground, to prove Canadian sovereignty with the construction of Cold War Military Installations.

The revival of throat singing and other forms of Inuit culture post-1970s—sometimes funded by the state, sometimes by private indigenous foundations, communities, or individuals—is a refusal of this genocidal practice. It is also a refusal to think of the voice as being only a historically social practice. It is thought to be simultaneously a pan-arctic, or non-nationalist practice, like its presence as a competitive game in the Arctic Games (including Kathy Keknek and Janet Aglukkaq magisterial performance at the 2008 Games) and a mark of Canadian identity, including Tanya Tagaq’s decades long career (from work with Bjork to winning the highest award in Canadian music last year, the Polaris), or the presence of throat singers Samantha Metcalfe and Cailyn Degrandpre at Justin Trudeau’s swearing in ceremony this year. 

There is an irony in how Canadian cultural and political practice rewards the ongoing presence of oral traditions where a generation or two previously they sought to violently suppress. Explaining how throat singing functions, how it is used within Inuit ritual practice, and how it has updated and move forward, I hope to play with the idea of voice—literal vocal techniques, formal vocal experimentation, a cultural voice that has been remembered, and a nationalist voice that continues its imperial heritage.

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