A World of Music: Voice Part II

Nov 18, 2020

The world is full of wonderful and unique ways of making music!

Which is why we’ve spend the last little while taking a deep dive into the different sections of the band to learn more about how different cultures abound the globe have added to the world of guitar, keyboard, drums, brass, strings, flutes, and of course, the voice!

But there are so many incredible and unique ways for the human voice to be used to make music, we couldn’t fit it all into just one entry. So, let’s dive into part two of our exploration the incredible diversity of singing!

Inuit Throat Singing

Much like the Tuva people of Siberia, the indigenous people of Canada’s northern regions, the Inuit, also practice a form of throat singing. However, unlike the Tuva people, where only men traditionally perform, the Inuit form of throat singing is practiced almost exclusively by women. This style of singing is also more communal and collaborative than their Siberian counterparts, as it is usually performed in groups of two or more.

The technique relies on short, sharp, and rhythmic breaths, and was traditionally used to help sooth babies to sleep, or as a game for the women to pass the time when the men were out hunting. However, the Inuit tradition of throat singing was banned in Canada over 100 years ago by Christian priests, and is only now seeing something of a revival of the practice.

Tenores di Bitti

This incredible polyphonic sound, created by the combination of four male voices, comes from Bitti, Sardinia. The name, Tenores di Bitti, refers to these four men in particular, but they are practicing a traditional folk style of acapella singing that has over 3000 years of musical heritage. They even recorded their album, S’amre ‘e mama, in their Italian hometown, capturing the ambient sounds of the area – the churches, pubs, and fields of Sardinia.

It’s almost a shame to see this group in a small video on the computer. Just imagine exploring the alleyways of Bitti, and coming across these men, raising their voices together, the sound booming off the walls around them. What an experience!


Most people are at least a little familiar with yodeling. It’s most commonly associated with the Swiss and the Alps, but did you know there are tons of yodelers in France and the Netherlands? That it’s also found today in punk and contemporary rock!

But, yodeling most likely got its start way back in Africa, with the beginning of mankind. To put a finer point on it, yodeling was probably developed around 10,000 years ago, when animals were first domesticated, as a way to keep livestock together. It likely also had something to do with people keeping each other amused.

Although it’s most closely associated with the mountains of Europe, yodeling is common all over the world. In fact, the Pygmies of the Congo still use yodeling for many reasons, from important feasts, to simple playing!


Yet another style of overtone singing, or throat singing, comes from the Ngqoko women of South Africa’s Eastern Cape. “It’s called umngqokolo singing and was only discovered in 1980 when the missionary and musicologist came across the women,” explains Professor Zaidel-Rudolph, co-leader of a research team with a three year grant from the National Research Foundation to record, document, preserve and work with the women . “It’s like the droning of a beetle and no-one knew that there was traditional Xhosa overtone singing in South Africa until that point – it’s not like Mongolian or Tibetan overtone singing at all.”

The 12 members of the Ngqoko Ensemble, will perform a set of traditional songs using umngqokolo, as well as instruments like the umrhubhe (mouth bow), uhadi (gourd bow), and usidiphu (friction drum).

Honourable Mention: Tongue Singing


This one is a little different, as so gets an honourable mention!

This Tyrolean choir – from the Austrian Alps region of Tyrol – flick their tongues back and forth to sing a rumbling acapella chorus. The song they are “singing” may sound like something from Austria’s latest musical talent reality show, but it’s actually a popular Soviet and Russian song, written in 1955, called “Moscow Nights.”

It’s fairly common for singers to practice with their tongue out. It actually helps to relieve any tension in the muscle and helps get everything nice and loose. But these men seem to be taking it very seriously!

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