Before any indepth discussion of the music of the Eskimo people can occur, It is important to note that there are many different types of music, each with its own purpose. Eskimo music can be divided up into at least 5 different categories: the well known semi-secular Dance Songs, ritualistic Shamanic Songs, Ceremonial Music, Game Songs, and Comic Songs.

Dance Songs

Dance Songs are the most commonly sung and therefore are the most widely known songs and as well, epitomize a common generalization of Eskimo music. Dance songs are usually sung by both the women and the men, with the men beating the drums, and women and sometimes men dancing.

Dance songs are generally performed for the following purposes:

Shamanic Songs

Shamanic Songs are those related to the religious powers of the shaman. They are most often performed for healing of the sick, control of weather, invocation, exorcism of evil spirits, and channeling*.

Ceremonial Music

Ceremonial Music is music which is performed for an event or on a certain occasion. For example, certain songs are performed excusively for festivals such as Aiyáguk, the asking festival, Tcauiyuk, the bladder festival, or Atigi, the feast of the dead. The occasions of death, the hunt, and boat launching are three very common nonperiodic ceremonies that occur, each with specific sets of music to be performed at each. The topic of Ceremonial Music also covers Duel Songs, which are essentially a method of settling disputes through song.

Game Songs

Eskimo Game Songs come in many forms. The Song for Winding String is one example. In this game, the player twists a long sinew string which is tied around his foot in time with the song. By the end of the song, he must have the sinew completely twisted. Then in a second, song, he untwists in the same manner. Another game, the catıs cradle, utilizes song in a different manner. In this game, a complex figure is made out of a loop of string, while the song discusses some moral lesson that the shape of the string figure represents.

Other games donıt involve string. For example, the game being played in this video clip is a game involving vocal and diaphragmic stamina, as well as the mind and reflex. In it, two women sing into each otherıs oral cavities for resonance. The women exchange singing different rhythmic patterns with their voice, with the other one having to repeat that pattern in time. The first one to run out of breath or break out of the rhythm loses. Their method of singing is one rarely found in the world, similar to the Kargyraa of Tuva, in which the vocalist vibrates the velum at half the frequency of the rest of the voice, causing the production of a pitch an octave lower than the fundamental. This Inuit game is very rare, but there are records of it having been observed in Alaska.

Comic Songs

Like most cultures, comedy has found its place within Eskimo music. Comic songs are primarily performed not to get laughs, however, but to demonstrate nonagression and good will towards other tribes. These comic songs often contain obsenities, which in the context becomes completely socially acceptable.

*In channelling, the Shaman speaks with spirits through drumming. In doing so, the spirits actually possess his body and speak through him.