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March 2006: Interview with Kendra Tagoona

Interviewer: Franziska von Rosen
Location: Carleton University

Kendra Tagoona: Hi, my name is Kendra. I live here in Ottawa. My family originally comes from Baker Lake, Nunavut, but Iíve lived in Ottawa for most of my life.

Franziska von Rosen: Tell me a bit about the kinds of dances and songs you perform.

KT: I have been performing for about ten years. I started out with drum dancing, and learning some ayaya songs. When I turned 20, I decided to try throat singing. It was pretty hard at first, but once I got going I really enjoyed it. Within about a year I knew most of the songs. Now I perform mostly throat singing, drumming and ayaya. I have also learned some Inuit games, which we incorporate into our show.

FvR: Can you tell me what you mean by an ayaya song?

KT: Ayaya singing is mostly an expression of personal experiences that people have passed on through the ages, telling stories of their Inuit culture, their family, celebrations and emotions, hunting and fishing stories, or songs about their environment and weather.

FvR: How did you learn?

KT: I learned one on one. My teacher was a very good throat singer. When her sister moved away she asked if I could learn and be her new [singing] partner. So we rehearsed once a week for about six months to a year. Then I started doing shows with her. Thatís how I started.

FvR: How are these traditions usually passed on?

KT: It is usually passed on one on one. It is not like here in the south where you can take classes and different things. It is usually passed on either through friends, or elders Ė whoever can throat sing. I think the best way to learn is one on one.

FvR: So if you want to learn, how do you ask somebody?  Do you offer to pay?

KT: No, not usually. I didnít. My friend just offered to teach me. Throat singing was not practised for many years due to the church. So now a lot of youth up north want to learn. I donít think that there are many people who would accept money for that. If you know someone who can throat sing, you just ask them to teach you.

FvR: What are some of the different kinds of performances you do?

KT: We can do a more professional show, where we do a combination of throat singing, drum dancing and ayaya singing. Sometimes we add interactive portions where we will try to get the audience to imitate some of the sounds that we are making. We also do workshops in schools and places like that. Weíll talk more about the culture and the outfits we are wearing; talk about the history of drumming, throat singing and stuff like that. It is more of a learning experience. In our longer shows we like to include games. We usually get the audience to participate in the games and we compete against each other.

FvR: Tell me a bit about the outfit you are wearing.

KT: This is a womanís jacket. It is called an Amauti. In the back there is a very large hood and that is where the baby goes. On my feet I am wearing Kumiks. Most of them are made of sealskin or caribou. Mine have felt and embroidery. These were made in my familyís community, Baker Lake. They are about 25 years old. I really enjoy wearing these because they are from where my family comes.

FvR: The game song you performed today, what can you tell me about it?

KT: Anguti is a popular game that a lot of kids like to play. It is not a traditional Inuit song. It was inherited most likely from the Scottish. It is just a fun game that kids like. The girl that taught me throat singing introduced anguti to me.

FvR: Just a final question. Iíd like to know what goes through your mind when you are performing your traditional songs and dances?

KT: When you are performing with a group it is different than when you are doing it on your own. When you are with a group you are thinking about the other performers, making sure you are on time with them, and making sure you have all the words in synch with them. When you are on your own you can get into it a lot more. You can get into your own world if you are drumming long enough. It is very repetitive; you can just be there with the drum and your own thoughts.

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Anguti Video
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Throat singing is such a totally different experience. It is such a fast type of singing, you can only concentrate on what you are doing. When you are throat singing you stand very close to the other person. And you are just concentrating on hearing the sounds they are making and trying to imitate them. It is a lot of fun.

FvR: Thank you.

   * * *

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This project was made possible with the support of the Department of Canadian Heritage through Canadian Culture Online

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