There is a growing list of Inuit artists boycotting the Indigenous Music Awards (IMA) over the nomination of a Cree performer who is a throat singer.
Inuit artist Alika Komangapik, 17, is a throat singer and drum dancer from Iqaluit who is adding her name to the boycott.
“I’d like them to apologize for what they’ve done, because this in itself is cultural appropriation,” Komangapik told APTN News.
Inuit artists, including Polaris prize winner Tanya Tagak Gillis and Juno nominee Kelly Fraser, have called for a boycott until the IMA includes an Inuk member on their board of directors.
APTN is a major sponsor of the music awards.
They say throat singing for profit is something that should be reserved for Inuit artists.
The IMA officials have said they will add an Inuk member, but did not rescind the nomination of Connie LeGrande, who performs as Cikwes. She has been nominated for Best Folk Album along with Aasiva, Beatrice Deer, Diyet and the Love Soldiers, and Thea Hopkins.
On Friday night, a post on the IMA Facebook site threw fuel on the fire. In part they wrote, “These individuals who are trying to divide us brings a lot of pain to many…. my voice will always rise for those who are bullied, who are treated as they are not worthy and degraded.”
By Saturday morning, the post had been deleted.
But not before more performers – including non-Inuit like A Tribe Called Red, and actor Adam Beach – added their support to the boycott.
“In solidarity with our Inuit sisters, we’ve decided to remove ourselves from this year’s Indigenous Music Awards,” the tweet says.
“We support the requested changes in policy brought forward by the throatsinging community.”
— A Tribe Called Red (@atribecalledred) April 6, 2019
For a young performer like Komangapik, Inuit women performers like Tanya Tagaq Gillis are her heroes.
“Tanya, her performing art, her throat singing is very raw. It’s very emotional, it brings you up and down, that’s the beautiful thing about it,” she says.
“She’s a beautiful performing artist, beautiful soul, beautiful heart.”
Komangapik says she practices what she preaches, careful not to over extend when dealing with performances from different Inuit regions.
“Me as an Inuk throat singer, drum dancer, I will never use western drum dancing, western Inuit drum dancing, or Greenlandic mask dancing without a western drum dancer or Greenlandic mask dancer present,” she says.
“Because, even so, being Inuk, and it is somewhat a part of my heritage, but it is not directly my heritage and it isn’t my place to represent it.”
Throat singing was banned by missionaries when Inuit lands were colonized, yet has returned to be a unique voice for Inuit.
That took generations of determination, and the Indigenous Music Awards are now learning directly just how determined Inuit throat singers can be.