• Feature

An Act of Resistance

An Interview with PIQSIQ

Oct 23, 2019
by IAQ

As PIQSIQ, sisters and throat singers Tiffany Kuliktana Ayalik and Kayley Inuksuk Mackay leave listeners enthralled with their performances of traditional songs and eerie new compositions. On their debut EP Altering The Timeline (out now courtesy of COAX Records), PIQSIQ team up with producer Ruby Singh to create a collection of songs that blend rhythmic throat singing with entrancing beats.

Ahead of their performance on October 25th in Toronto as part of imagineNATIVE, the IAQ chat with PIQSIQ about their EP, the importance of collaboration, who inspires them and much more.

IAQ: How did you get started making music?

PIQSIQ: We began throat singing together as children. It was a pastime to learn and practice with our cousins.  We didn’t take it super seriously. It was just something we had always done for fun. When we began to learn more about the North’s history with colonization it really reframed throat singing for us.  Nearing adulthood it felt more like a political act of resistance and reclamation.

IAQ: Can you tell us about your EP, Altering The Timeline?

PIQSIQ: Altering The Timeline sparked during a spontaneous jam session at Calgary Folk Festival near the Bow River. Our incredibly talented producer, Ruby Singh, beatboxed as we sang the traditional throat song “River.” It was a really magical moment and it was just two short months later that we found ourselves laying down tracks in Vancouver’s Afterlife Studios.

We were bravely facing some very dark wounds at the time.  The transcendent experience of both intergenerational pain and intergenerational resilience was very much a backdrop for our studio session, especially on the track, “Nuna to Qilak: Land to Sky.”

IAQ: Are there any other recent projects you would like our readers to know about?

PIQSIQ: We are about to record a Christmas EP! It’s going to be primarily in minor keys and lyric-less. It’s going to be dark and weird and we can’t wait to share it.

IAQ: Why is collaboration important to you?

PIQSIQ: Collaboration creates such fertile ground for artists of all disciplines. As Inuit throat singers we cannot stress enough how important collaboration is. As Arnaqquasaaq Collective recently stated, this includes composition, performance and royalty fee breakdowns. If folks like the sounds of katajjaq and want to explore those elements in music, hire Inuit to collaborate with. It really stings to see our traditional forms mined and reduced to “vocal techniques,” often with little to no acknowledgement as to where they come from. We feed our families largely through performance fees. It’s troubling to see our beloved practice that nearly went extinct a few short decades ago being exoticized and imitated by non-Inuit. Some of our favourite recording experiences have been recording or performance collaborations with non-Inuit. Such deep and beautiful work can come from these sessions.

 

IAQ: What are your favourite things to do in Toronto?

PIQSIQ: The food in Toronto is so great, there are a few places we will definitely hit up. There is going to be so much incredible talent at imagineNATIVE it will be such a pleasure to just be able to network and reconnect with our friends and collaborators.

IAQ: What Indigenous designers will you be rocking while performing or attending events for imagineNATIVE?

PIQSIQ: We recently became the owners of some gorgeous Mathew Nuqingaq earrings so we will definitely be sporting those!

IAQ: What are some other musicians you have been listening to and drawing inspiration from?

PIQSIQ: Susan Aglukark and Tanya Tagaq are huge inspirations for us. Definitely trailblazers, the both of them, who make us feel like our dreams are possible.  Although our own style differs quite a lot, they are etched into our subconscious and continually encourage us to keep moving forward.  And if you haven’t already, do yourself a favour and get a copy of Silla and Rise’s new album, Galactic Gala. It really is mind-blowingly fantastic!

IAQ: Are there any indigenous films that you’re excited to see or have seen recently that you would like to recommend?

PIQSIQ: One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk was one of the most incredible, profound and deeply moving films I have ever seen.  See. This. Film.

IAQ: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about?

PIQSIQ: We are so grateful to all the folks who have purchased or streamed our music or have been able to come out to a show.  Recording and performing truly are transcendent experiences for us and we love when others step into our dark and ethereal storm worlds for a visit.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity based on correspondence via email on October 22nd.