With a style perpetually galvanized by darkness and haunting northern beauty, sisters Tiffany Ayalik and Inuksuk Mackay come together to create Inuit style throat singing duo, PIQSIQ. Performing ancient traditional songs and eerie new compositions, they leave their listeners enthralled with their ability to weave complex emotional landscapes that transcend language.In Inuktitut, a “piqsiq” is a storm where winds blow in a very specific way, making it seem as if the snow is falling back up towards the sky. This otherworldly, natural phenomenon has become a source of inspiration for the duo, reminding them that things are not alway sas they seem.
With roots in Nunavut’s Kitikmeot and Kivalliq Regions, the sisters grew up in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, where endless sunlight shines for two short summer months and deep, wintery darkness consumes the rest of the year. These environmental extremes impacted the way Tiffany and Inuksuk’s aesthetic developed and the pair have always engrossed themselves in creating soundtracks to life that reflect this natural phenomenon. The sisters loved to practice katajjaq, Inuit style throat singing, during long trips out on the land, and the practice has continued to bond them together throughout their lives.
As the sisters approached adulthood, they continued to learn about Inuit history and the abhorrent laws instituted by the Canadian Government under Colonization. They were devastated to discover how katajjaq was regarded as an evil practice by the church, along with many other cultural Indigenous practices. By the 1960s, through shaming, banning and punishment by law in the forms of fines and imprisonment, katajjaq had all but gone extinct.This realization led them to study katajjaq not only as music, but as a radical, political act of decolonization.
The sisters have performed many traditional style sets over the last two decades, and in more recent years have taken the dive into blending their style with new technology. Their live performances, in alignment with katajjaq’s original form, take inspiration from the world around them combined with their own thoughts and feelings and an invitation to the audience to help steer the journey songs will take. Creating performances this way allows the audience to experience spontaneous compositions that are unique to each individual show.
As PIQSIQ, they perform improvisational looping live and incorporate the winter darkness and ethereal feel into their recordings. The pair have released four studio albums to date; Altering The Timeline, Quviasugvik: In Search of Harmony, Taaqtuq Ubluriaq: Dark Star, and PIQSIQ: Live from Christ Church Cathedral.
The sisters continue to blend magic with sound to further develop their entrancing style for both national and international audiences.