Eskimo Music

I was reading a case study about East Greenland Eskimo music. They use music to hurl insults back and forth. In the case I was reading about, one man divorced his wife, another man married her, and the first man wanted her back. They used music to insult one another and decide who gets to keep the woman. Afterwards they echanged presents and embraced one another warmly. What is the origin or this and what is the form of their music?

Well here is the “song” I suppose I should have posted this with my original message.

The entire Eskimo group (about 30) gathered around the central hearth, forming a circle. Two men stepped within the circle, Ipa and Igsia. They faced each other, standing about five feet apart, and Ipa began to sing. He sang,
“Now shall I split off words-little,
sharp words
Like the wooden splinters which I
hack off with my ax.
A song from ancient times-a breath of
the ancestors
A song of longing for my wife.
An impudent, black-skinned oaf has
stolen her,
Has tried to belittle her.
A miserable wretch who loves
human flesh-
A cannibal from famine days.”
While he sang, Ipa dipped his knees once and a while and took an occasional step backwards and forwards. He also twisted his upper body to the right or left at certain points.
Igsia responded to Ipa, singing dispassionately,
“Insolence that takes the breath away
Such laughable arrogance and effrontery.
What a satirical song! Supposed to put blame on me.
You would drive fear into my heart!
I who care not about death.
Hi! You sing about my woman
who was your wench.
You weren’t so loving then-she
was much alone.
You forgot to prize her in song, in
stout, contest songs.
Now she is mine.
And never had shall she visit singing,
false lovers.
Betrayer of women in false households.”
When Igsia sang, “Betrayer of women in false households,” his family members, standing at his side of the circle, joined him. In addition, while Igsia was singing, Ipa encouraged the audience to laugh at him.
Ipa sang in response,
“Let me too follow the Umiak as a kayak man.
To follow the boat with the singers
As if I could be afraid!
As if I were possessed of weak-kneed ways.
When I pursue the kayak paddler.
It is not to be wondered at
That he is pleased,
He who has nearly killed his cousin
No wonder that he was so self-satisfied
That he felt such joy.”
I asked Itaq, who was standing next to me, why the two men were doing this. He replied that Igsia had married the divorced wife of old man Ipa. Now that she was gone Ipa wanted her back, and Igsia did not want to give her up.

The crowd seemed to be cheering Igsia on and he sang,
"But I merely laugh at it
But I make merry over it
That you Ipa are a murderer
That you are jealous from the ground up.
Given to envy
Because you do not have more than three wives,
And you think them too few
So you are jealous.
You should marry them to some other men.
Then you could have what their husbands bring in.
Ipa, because you do not concern yourself
with these things

	Because your women eat you out of house and 
	So you take to murdering your fellow men.
	Betrayer of women in strange households"
	(once again his family members joined in)

I just wondering about the form of the music and the origins?

Nanook’s Blues

I woke up this mornin’
my igloo melted in the sun.
I said, I woke up this mornin’
my igloo melted in the sun.

I looked around for my wife.
She took the dogsled and run.

I sat on the ice floe
and I begin to bawl.
I said, I sat on the ice floe
and I begin to bawl.

Somebody say Hey Nanook!
Another walrus kickin’ in your stall.

(thank you ladies and gentlemen. I’ll be here all week)

The Vikings seem to have had a similar tradition. When everybody but Loki is invited to a banquet, he shows up anyway. He insults everybody in a flighting. The flighting was a form of poem used just to insult to people. Instead of responding with poems of their own, the other gods just try to kill Loki.

For any group of people living in an environment with very scarce resources, settling things through insulting poems makes a lot of sense. If Ipa and Igsia just drew weapons and dueled, one side would lose a man whose labor they needed. If the winner is injured, his side also loses labor until he heals.