YELLOWKNIFE — Christmas can be complicated for the Inuit musical duo PIQSIQ.
Tiffany Ayalik and Inuksuk Mackay have fond childhood memories of travelling from Northwest Territories to Nunavut for communal Christmas festivities. But as they grew older, the Yellowknife sisters came to associate the Christian holiday with the colonial suppression of Inuit culture, opting to instead celebrate winter solstice.
Now, PIQSIQ is forging their own holiday tradition by covering Christmas carols in the style of Inuit throat-singing.
“It’s our attempt to stitch ... these complicated contrasts and histories together in a way that makes sense for us, and acknowledges the joy and acknowledges the love, but doesn’t deny painful feelings,” Mackay said.
“Quviasugvik: In Search of Harmony” features holiday standards such as “Carol of the Bells” set to the guttural thrum of throat-singing, which involves using breathing techniques to produce an array of vocal sounds.
The sisters covered hymns including “What Child Is This” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” to evoke what Christmas must have felt like for Indigenous children in residential schools celebrating the holiday for the first time after being uprooted from their communities.
“We layered a lot of that confusion and longing and wanting to be home within the music,” said Ayalik.
The album is available on the digital music platform Bandcamp.