Don't worry, be spontaneous — Inuvialuit throat singer hits the stage with Bobby McFerrin

In Calgary to perform at the Indspire Awards, Nina Segalowitz was called on stage to throat sing with her idol Bobby McFerrin of 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' fame.

Last-minute ticket to Bobby McFerrin's Calgary concert led to musical 'magic' for singer from Fort Smith

Inuvialuit throat singer Nina Segalowitz sings onstage with Bobby McFerrin in Calgary in an impromptu performance. (Submitted by Nina Segalowitz)

When Nina Segalowitz was growing up, she dreamed of singing like Bobby McFerrin.

But she never imagined singing on stage with him. 

The Grammy Award-winning singer is probably most famous for his a cappella hit "Don't Worry, Be Happy."

"I always saw him as this incredible musician because he was able to do all these sounds using only his voice," said Segalowitz, who has studied cello since she was three years old, and is also a throat singer.

Segalowitz was in Calgary to prepare for a performance at the Feb. 22  Indspire Awards, which recognize Indigenous achievement. She was offered a ticket to McFerrin's Calgary performance on Tuesday night.

I was either gonna cry, or I was going to sing. - Nina Segalowitz, throat singer

Word got around that she was a throat singer, and that's how McFerrin ended up inviting her on stage at the Jack Singer Concert Hall.

"It was one of those out-of-body experiences. What you have to understand is that growing up, he was one of my idols."

She said at one point she called on her ancestors for help.

"I was either gonna cry or I was going to sing. Like I had a split second there where I was, 'Okay, you come from a long line of strong women … and you cannot choke at this point.'"

She said she started out slow to help the audience and the musicians get accustomed to her sound.

"As I opened my eyes there was Bobby McFerrin … and then he just started singing with his style."

Ten-time Grammy Award winner Bobby McFerrin performed at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in Calgary Feb. 19. (CBC)

Segalowitz said it was an intimate moment, in a huge performance space, but it felt like everyone in the room was with them.

"It blended so seamlessly. It was one of those amazing moments where two singers, two musicians of completely different style, completely different ability, were able to make magic."  

Segalowtiz said she's been honoured to sing for the Queen of Belgium, but this was something else entirely.

"There was more of a connection with Bobby McFerrin, simply because we share an ability to sing and use our throats as an instrument."

Segalowitz performs Feb. 22 at the Indspire Awards with multidisciplinary Métis artist Moe Clark and Marino Vasquez.

With files from Lawrence Nayally, Marc Winkler