Tanya Tagaq
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Tanya Tagaq

Brandon, Manitoba, Canada | INDIE

Brandon, Manitoba, Canada | INDIE
Band EDM Avant-garde


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"Tanya Tagaq ices down the summer heat"

Singer Tanya Tagaq hails from the Nunavut autonomous region in northern Canada, a gateway to the North Pole. She's a progressively spirited musician who is extending the technique of Inuit "throat singing," a tradition usually pairing two women in a singing game that simulates the sounds of nature. Tagaq, however, is not as interested in preserving tradition as she is in impelling it into entirely new musical forms.

Tagaq's appearance at California Plaza's Grand Performances on Saturday night was a bracing, exploratory experience. Tagaq demonstrated the modernist bent that has found her collaborating with similarly inclined artists, including vocal work on Björk's 2004 "Medulla" album and 2005's "Vespertine" tour, and performances with the Kronos Quartet in 2008. Tagaq's 2008 album "Auk/Blood" was released through Mike Patton's avant-leaning Ipecac Recordings label.

Despite struggling with a sore throat that clearly limited her vocal range and volume, Tagaq, accompanied by percussionist Scott Amendola and string player Jesse Zubot, pulled off a hair-raising set of extended, entirely improvised pieces. Sprawling Northern vistas were conjured in the compositions -- a sense of a howling, icy wind blasting one's face, perhaps.

Writhing and clutching her chest as if in emotional and physical pain one moment, and then in sensual joy the next, Tagaq cajoled and regaled in a variety of animal grunts, guttural gasps, cries and whispers. It was a lyrically ambiguous vocalese, most reminiscent of vocal-technique expanders such as Diamanda Galás and Yoko Ono. Modest usage of digital-delay filters further extended the dramatic effects.

Appropriately, Amendola and Zubot's accompaniment was far-reaching yet discreetly pitched against Tagaq's primal vocal outpourings, employing a free-jazz-type range of methods far outside conventional modes of playing. Amendola's rattles and explosive tom-tom thumps were run through an array of sampling/delay filters, as was the high-tension violin and viola work of Zubot.

David Harrington of the Kronos Quartet calls Tagaq "the Jimi Hendrix of Inuit throat singers," and the analogy is spot-on. Like Hendrix, Tagaq seeks to elicit the valuable, primitive unconscious -- the internal made external -- that lies dormant and untapped in us all. Yet, as with Hendrix, it was the future-leaning, musically avant-garde approach she took in drawing out these primordial impulses that was the evening's biggest thrill.

-- John Payne
- LA Times

"Northern Music (with Kronos Quartet)"

The avant-garde Kronos Quartet first grabbed mainstream attention back in 1986, with a startling string arrangement of Jimi Hendrix’s psychedelic classic Purple Haze. Two decades later, the Grammy-winning U.S. string ensemble – still as adventurous as ever – has finally found its own, living Hendrix to collaborate with: one-of-a-kind Nunavut throat singer Tanya Tagaq.
“To me, there’s no one that plays a guitar like Jimi Hendrix did,” says Kronos founder David Harrington, speaking by phone from a tour stop in Le Mans, France. “And there’s no singer I know of like Tanya Tagaq. She takes the technique of throat-song games – something two or more people would usually do – and she does it all by herself. And she does it [live]. She is totally amazing to me.”
Tanya Tagaq riffs with her elastic vocal cords the way Jimi Hendrix did with a Stratocaster. Her aural acrobatics have reshaped an Inuit pastime into the stuff of concert-hall virtuosity.
Anyone who has caught a Tagaq performance will appreciate the comparison. The 30-year-old from Cambridge Bay riffs with her elastic vocal cords the way Hendrix did with a Stratocaster. Her aural acrobatics have reshaped an Inuit pastime into the stuff of concert-hall virtuosity. Traditionally, throat singing is a vocal game of catch, in which Inuit women toss sounds into one another’s mouths until one of them “drops the ball” – that is, breaks up laughing. Tagaq, however, plays the game solo, with a dexterity and intensity that sends shivers up your spine. Her singing is a call of the wild, evoking the sharp cries of birds and the guttural grunts of mammals, sometimes all at once. In the throes of one of her performances, Tagaq will actually sing her own counterpoint.
When Harrington first heard her, on a promotional CD in Britain's fRoots magazine, he knew that Kronos had to meet her. Since then, the quartet and Tagaq have teamed up on two pieces: Nunavut, which premiered in 2006, and the new Tundra Songs, composed by Derek Charke. Tagaq, violinist Harrington and his fellow Kronos members – John Sherba (violin), Hank Dutt (viola) and Jeffrey Zeigler (cello) – will perform both works at Toronto’s Luminato arts festival on June 12 and 13.
- Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

"WordFest (2011)"

“immediately after was a short set from Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq. Filling the theatre with low guttural grunts and fierce shrieks, it’s something that can only be experienced live. Sure, a quick YouTube search can give you an idea of her rhythmic, otherworldly sound, but your tinny laptop speakers will never capture that thick rumble from deep below the diaphragm. Where a pair of vocal chords start resembling a turntable, broken bits of radio signal, or most eerily, two entirely independent voices.” - FFWD Magazine


2011 - Anuraaqtuq (Les Disques VICTO
2008 - Auk / Blood (Jericho Beach Music)
2006 - Sinaa (Jericho Beach Music)



What do free improvisation, Inuit throat singing, and hair-raising passion have in common? Add descriptors like mesmerizing, intimate and ‘pushing the edge’ to the mix and you begin to understand the breadth and endlessly inventive quality of Tanya Tagaq’s sonic equation.

Heralded by fRoots magazine as a “magnificent, unique, overwhelming life force,” Tanya Tagaq is a contemporary performance artist who uses the ancient traditional Inuit art of throat singing to bring her singular talent to audiences around the world. Since breaking onto the world stage in 2001, she has emerged as a Canadian national treasure.

Tanya is the first to admit that her music defies description. Alternately called primal, orchestral or free jazz, almost all of her performances are improvised and, as she confesses, “It feels like I dial in another frequency. I go to places where I surrender to all that terrifies and excites me.” The end result is a staggering array of music performance that portray in full colour sound the scope of her life experiences.

Born and raised in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut in Canada’s high arctic, Tanya grew up surrounded by Inuit and western culture. Although traditional music was always on the periphery, it was the sounds of pop giants such as Janis Joplin and the Doors that first captured her imagination. It wasn’t until her teenage years, while away at school, that she began experimenting with Inuit throat singing. She gradually developed her own solo style, fusing her contemporary interests with the ancient artform. Her first professional gig at a festival in Inuvik won the admiration of friends of the great Icelandic singer Bjork, eventually leading to an appearance on the artist’s 2004 CD, Medulla and a chance to accompany her on tour. The rest, as they say, is history.

As a solo artist, Tanya has released two critically-acclaimed albums with her band – Sinaa and Auk/Blood – both of which were nominated for Juno Awards (Best Aboriginal Recording) and (Best Instrumental Recording). The albums also took first place in several categories at the 2005 and 2008 Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, including Best Female Artist (2005). Her commitment to stretching her musical boundaries has led to projects in different mediums and with groundbreaking artists. In 2005, the world-renowned Kronos Quartet invited her to participate in a monumental collaborative project Nunavut, which was performed at venues across North America and Europe, including a stop at New York’s Carnegie Hall. The ensemble reunited in 2007 for the creation of Tundra Songs by Derek Charke, which dazzled audiences at the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad and subsequent performances on international stages.

More recently, she has ventured into film, contributing to the soundtrack for “Diaries of Knut Rasmussen,” and wearing dual hats as musician/narrator for the award-winning National Film Board documentary, This Land. Her latest film project was the stunning video Tungijuq, for which she collaborated with musician Jesse Zubot and Montreal filmmakers Felix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphael. The film premiered to rave reviews at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival and 2010 Sundance Film Festival and also won for “Best Short Drama” at the 2009 imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival Awards.

Presently at work on another album, Tanya has no shortage of ideas for new projects, spanning the start of a throat-singer choir to experimenting in ‘metal’ territory. She’s also eager to continue her collaborations with artists outside her musical zone. Wherever she lands, you can be sure the result will be out of this world.