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  • Writer's pictureVal Bastien

Indigenous Singing Education

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

Today was National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. In the light of the recent confirmation of hundreds of unmarked graves and remains belonging to Indigenous children taken away from their families and put in residential schools, it is a time to hold space for those who have suffered and are still suffering from this horrendous ordeal. I want to take a moment to celebrate how First Nations, Inuits and Metis have contributed to our history and continue to do so in the areas of agriculture, the environment, business, and the arts.

I also appreciate all that they have lost to our benefit; I understand that for many, it is a very difficult fight to fight in their efforts for Truth & Reconciliation.

We can support this by celebrating this beautiful culture and through education, let it inspire our own growth. An area where Indigenous people have so beautifully contributed to our history is music. When I think of Indigenous music, I think of powerful drumming and voices, as well as throat singing; an absolutely unique vocal approach. Let's have a closer look at what we can learn from Indigenous singing in order to sing better and improve our own voice. Of course, in the process, we must not copy nor appropriate a culture that is not ours but we can model some of its genius to develop our own singing identity.


If vibration is the source all living, breath is also life. In Inuit throat singing, breath almost brings a percussive element to the songs that not only fuels the voice but also tells a story. It is an integral part of the vocal work. While many singers forget to plan their breaths and tend to breathe at the last minute, throat singing incorporates breathing in rhythm with other intricate throat sounds and singing. It calls to the urgency of the moment while requiring excellent coordination. Breathing is consistent and well thought of. Breathing is evocative. Watch Inuk singer-songwriter and humanitarian Susan Aglukark describe Inuit life through her art in “Breaths”:


There is a great deal of improvisation in Indigenous drumming, singing and dancing. Kids are introduced to music at a very young age, often encouraged to build their own noisemakers and drums from objects found in their environment. It takes a lot of confidence to improvise in singing and take such chances. There is always a risk that what you heard in your head is not what came out! Or that it didn't sync with what your musician friend was playing because he suddenly decided to change chord progressions! But it's cool and a wonderful way to push our limits and explore melodies that we otherwise would not have thought of.


Music, song and dance is considered sacred for many First Nations Peoples. When they get together to perform, an undeniable and powerful sense of community and connection to their source and to each other takes place. Similarly, we need to build a loving and meaningful relationship with ourselves first, to channel our energy and emotions. But also nurture how we interact and bond with our band mates as well as with our growing audience. The ability to engage a crowd is what makes charismatic performers stand out from other singers. A special fan-artist connection often creates the foundation of a loyal fan base.


Indigenous songs document the history of their people from hunting to protest to nature conservation and every day life, etc. Songs have the ability to heal and bring us together; across nations and cultures. Watch the video “Urban. Indigenous. Proud: Full Circle” below to find out how Indigenous peoples use music to create a safe space and celebrate their identity:

When we document our lives and reveal our joys and struggles, others see our strength and relate with similar personal situations. We find emotional support and solutions to life problems. We learn from each other. Or sometimes, songs simply give us and opportunity to let loose and have some plain old fun!

What's on your life song play list? What song reminds you of your beloved? Travels? Celebration? Tough times? Let me know in the comments!

Take your singer role seriously because the story you tell with your art potentially changes lives. We are talking about touching people with your singing here; and that's kind of a big deal!

Have you been thinking about working with a vocal coach lately? If you are interested in pursuing higher skill with your singing, I'm happy to be of service. I have been a singing teacher for 20 years. I offer both in-person and online singing lessons. Contact me as soon as possible to discuss your vision. Follow the link to set up your FREE consultation:




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