It is said that you can’t really know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been, which is why one Montreal family is trying to live by those words by keeping their cultural traditions alive.
“It’s important to pass down the traditions,” said Caroline Novalinga, an Inuk woman living in Pointe Claire.
She said when her daughter Shina Novalinga was around seven years old she began teaching her how to throat sing, and on her child’s birthday last summer, the pair did one song to mark the occasion.
According to her they recorded it and posted it to social media for fun.
Caroline said that’s when everything changed.
“It went viral,” Caroline smiled.
Shina said they were surprised, so they kept posting songs, and they couldn’t believe the number of views, shares and positive comments they got.
“Millions of views,” she smiled.
They’re still doing videos. Shina said she wasn’t sure at first how the public would react.
“I was very nervous in the beginning just because throat singing is very different, unique and unusual,” she explained.
She pointed out, however, that not all the reaction to their videos was positive.
“Just people making fun of it,” Shina noted. “But my mother taught me not to focus on that.”
She added that they decided to keep producing the videos since people were asking for more.
“A lot of people said it helped them cope with their anxiety, a lot of people said it helped them calm down,” the singer told Global News.
In throat singing, two people, traditionally women, sing in rhythmic patterns, usually standing and facing one another. Shina explained that historically it was done to pass the time, to compete and that it’s also a game. The first person to stop, loses.
Caroline said many years ago, the practice was almost lost.
“When the missionaries arrived to our land, to our communities, Inuit were told to stop throat singing, saying it’s a sin,” she laughed.
Caroline pointed out, though, that the tradition is now growing again and she’s discovering throat singers in places she didn’t expect to.
“There was from Greenland, from Alaska, from Nunavut and Nunavik,” she grinned.
To further the tradition, she and her mother have now recorded an album of throat songs to be released soon.
“Stay tuned,” Shina laughed.
There’s another silver lining, too. They’ve used their newfound fame to raise money to help Indigenous homeless women. Shina pointed out that between Christmas Day and Jan. 1, they were able to raise just over $12,000 for various Montreal organizations that support women living on the street.
“Our goal is to shine a light on Indigenous women who are in need, she said. We need to realize that Indigenous women are likely more in danger and are left abuse, dealing with trauma.
Shina said her family plans to do other fundraisers as well.