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Music from Alaska, "Drum Song"

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Library of Congress

Traditional Music of Alaska, " Drum Song"

For the native peoples of Alaska, whaling was a way of life. It began thousands of years ago. The whales provided the villages with a major food source, the meat, skin, and organs. The bones were used for housing equipment, the vertebrae for seats. Baleen was used for boot insulation and the stomach and bladder for drums. The entire community was involved in the whaling process, hunting, hauling, butchering, cooking and distributing.

Whaling songs have been dated as far back as two thousand years. Many songs are ancient, carried in the memories of old men and passed along. This song, "Drum Song", is a contemporary song, composed by Nick Wongatilin of the village of Savoonga, south of the Bering Straits. To hear a clip of it, click on the "play music" button above.

"Dance Song" sung by Joe Sikvayunak, Otis Ahkivigak, and Jonas Oyoowak on 'The Eskimos of Hudson Bay and Alaska,' a field recording by Laura Boulton. Folkways Records FE 4444, 1954. Provided courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings (FW04444_116). Used by Permission.

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