When the missionary, Hans Egede, came to Greenland to convert locals to Christianity, he brought with him the tradition of hymnal singing. The locals adopted this style of song, but interestingly, one can find elements of the Greenlandic hymnal singing that are completely unique from European choirs and hymns like, for example, the syllable aja which comes from drum dancing.
Over time, choirs and hymns have become an important element in Greenland’s national culture. Today, many towns have at least one performing choir.
Watch Greenlandic choir music here.
CONTACT WITH THE GREATER WORLD
When the Kingdom of Denmark colonised Greenland, it strategized to keep Greenland isolated from the rest of the world because Greenlanders were so-called ‘primitive people’ and should thus be protected from a sudden influx of modernity from Europe.
And so Greenland remained highly isolated, until World War II. When Germany occupied Denmark, Greenlanders suddenly lost access to the goods they had grown accustomed to. Germany saw great opportunities for its air force in having a station in Greenland, which Denmark did not want, so Denmark made an agreement with USA to oversee and protect Greenland in its stead. As a result, USA got permission to build military bases in many places throughout the country.
GREENLAND’S MUSIC HISTORY, PART 2
In the next article, take a further look at how Greenland’s modern music scene, which dominates the industry today, developed after the Second World War.