Nelson Tagoona, hip hop artist from Nunavut, Canada

Inuit throat singers Photo by Ansgar Walk, Wikimedia Commons

Inuit throat singers
Photo by Ansgar Walk, Wikimedia Commons

Adapted from The Vancouver Sun by Nancy Carson
Level 1

Nelson Tagoona is nineteen years old.
He is from Baker Lake, Nunavut.
Baker Lake has less than 2,000 people.
Nelson is a hip hop artist.
But he is a different hip hop artist.
Nelson learned something when he was little.
He learned throat singing.


What is throat singing?
Throat singing is a game for women.
Two women stand. They face each other.
Then they hold each other’s arms.
One singer is the leader.
She makes sounds by breathing in.
She makes sounds by breathing out.
She uses her voice, too.
The leader starts to repeat sounds.
The other woman follows with sounds.
The first woman to stop is the loser.
She starts to laugh. Then it is over.

How long is a throat song?
Throat songs are one to three minutes long.
Sometimes the singers move their feet.
They move left and right.
This is like a dance.

Nelson’s new singing
Nelson does throat singing, too.
But he uses it with hip hop music.
He calls his new singing “throat boxing”.
He mixes throat singing with “beat boxing”.
Beat boxing uses the throat, too.
In beat boxing, singers make sounds
like drums and other musical instruments.
They use their mouths, lips, tongues and voices to do this.
The artist speaks in time with these sounds.

Nelson becomes famous
Nelson does his throat boxing in the North.
He does it in Canada and the U.S.
The sound is new to people.
People like this new music.
This music has a different sound.
Nelson is happy to teach about his culture.

Nelson sends a message
Nelson wants young Inuit to have hope.
Some young Inuit have sad things in their lives.
He wants them to say, “…yeah, it’s ok.”
He wants them to think about a good future.
Nelson says, “You find your art and
it helps you learn how to heal and cope.”

Tanya Tagaq, throat singer
Tanya Tagaq is a throat singer.
She is from Cambridge Bay in Nunavut.
Tanya does her throat singing alone.
She mixes throat singing with pop music.
She does this with famous artists.
Tanya likes is to teach people about this old Inuit game.
There are different kinds of throat singing all over the world.

Tanya Tagaq is a throat singer. Photo by williamaveryhudson (William Avery Hudson), Flickr

Tanya Tagaq is a throat singer.
Photo by williamaveryhudson (William Avery Hudson), Flickr

The body makes music
Many cultures use other parts of the body, too.
Dancers and singers tap or slap their arms.
Or they tap or slap their legs.
Miners in South Africa are famous for their gumboot dancing.

(See a video of gumboot dancing in the “Links” section above.)

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