Skip to content

Throat singing sisters bring haunting soundscape to Sidney

Tiffany Ayalik and Inuksuk Mackay perform as PIQSIQ at Mary Winspear Centre Sept. 11
Sisters Tiffany Ayalik and Inuksuk Mackay performing as the duo PIQSIQ take to the stage on Saturday, Sept. 11 at the Mary Winspear Centre to perform their blend of traditional Inuit throat singing infused with modern technology. (Photo courtesy of the Mary Winspear Centre)

A showcase for emerging and underrepresented Canadian music talent continues at Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre with two Inuit throat singers.

Sisters Tiffany Ayalik and Inuksuk Mackay, known as PIQSIQ, perform ancient traditional songs and eerie new compositions on Saturday, Sept. 11, 7:30 p.m. as part of the Seaside Sessions.

The duo’s name derives from “piqsiq,” which the Inuit use to describe a storm where winds make it appear as if snow falls up towards the sky. This otherworldly natural phenomenon has become a source of inspiration for the sisters, reminding them things are not always as they seem.

Rooted in Nunavut’s Kitikmeot and Kivalliq regions, the sisters’ aesthetic reflects the short summer months and long, deep darkness that consumes the rest of the year in Yellowknife. During long trips, the sisters practiced katajjaq, Inuit throat singing, a tradition that continues to unite them.

RELATED: Blues singer Ndidi O brings eclectic sound, storytelling to Sidney

This personal act also acquired a political dimension after the sisters heard church officials considered katajjaq an evil practice, to be condemned with many other Indigenous cultural practices. Shaming, banning and punishment by law in the forms of fines and imprisonment led to the near extinction of katajjaq in 1960s. This history inspired the sisters to not only study and see katajjaq as music, but also as a radical, political act of decolonization.

While Ayalik and Mackay have performed many sets in the traditional style over the last two decades, more recent years have seen the duo blend their style with new technology. As PIQSIQ, they perform improvisational looping live, incorporating that dark and ethereal feel into their music as captured by three studio albums to date; Altering The Timeline, Quviasugvik: In Search of Harmony, and Taaqtuq Ubluriaq: Dark Star.

In alignment with katajjaq’s original form, their live performances take inspiration from the world around them, combining their own thoughts and feelings as an invitation to audiences to help steer the journey their songs will take. This approach allows audiences to experience spontaneous compositions unique to each individual show.

Tickets are $18.50 and can be purchased online at or by calling the box office at 250-656-0275.

Other artists performing as part of the Seaside Sessions so far are Tanika Charles and Witch Prophet with more to be announced later.

Do you have a story tip? Email:

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
Read more