Tanya Tagaq
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Tanya Tagaq

Brandon, Manitoba, Canada | INDIE | AFM

Brandon, Manitoba, Canada | INDIE | AFM
Band World Avant-garde




"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. - LA Times

"Tanya Tagaq with The Kronos Quartet"

In Vancouver at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on Saturday Jan. 30

There are surely few live music experiences as exhilarating and erotic as that which graced the stage at the Chan Centre in Vancouver, Saturday night.

Celebrated Inuit throat singer, Tanya Tagaq, was mesmerizing – and not only for her exceptional vocal agility. The moment San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet put bow to string, Tagaq became at one with the music.

This was no mere tapping of feet and clicking of fingers, rather a complete physical expression of tone and rhythm: AS her voice rasped one moment, and pitched pure, beautiful notes the next, Tagaq twitched her hear and arched her back, undulating to the beat.

Her set began with Tundra Songs (2007), written by Canadian composer Derek Charke. A composition consisting of five continuous movements, and specially commissioned for Tagaq and the Kronos Quartet, the piece transported us directly to the Arctic.

Ice cracked, the caribou were on the move, dogs howled – Tagaq provided a musical commentary, a kind of animalistic hip-hop that instantly evoked the richness of life in the frozen north. From this vibrant aural canvas, came a spoken request – “Lakaluk would like to tell us a story” – and Tagaq began to tell us a story of a beautiful girl whose dog transformed into her lover and impregnated her with a litter of half-human, half-dog offspring. “That’s where all the other people in the world come from, “ she purred.

Quite how one woman sitting with four musicians could create such a visceral image is both baffling and difficult to explain, but this was an exquisitely drawn landscape. And the effect was nothing short of cinematic.

Allowing Tagaq a much-needed breather, the quartet played one of the singer’s favourite songs – Sigur Ros’ The Fly Freer – but though she stayed silent until the end, Tagaq couldn’t sit still, her body illuminating every note.

The night ended with a triumphant standing ovation, but not before a fabulously anarchic rendition of a John Oswald piece, with the musicians miming to the music in increasingly elaborate fashion as Tagaq’s vocals soared.

It was a splendid final fourish to an evening that had begun with the Kronos Quartet alone, setting the musical terrain with a selection of pieces from Scandinavian composers. A simple backdrop of a velvet curtain that turned from icy blue to earthy terracotta added to the environmental theme.

But the night belonged to Tagaq, resplendent in a glittering black shift evening dress and bare feet. If ever there was a primal scream, this was it.
– Fiona Morrow (February 1, 2010)
- Globe & Mail

"Tanya Tagaq @ Wordfest"

“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 Calgary
- -FFWD Magazine Calgary


Anuraaqtuq (2011) Les Disques Victo (VICTO 121)
Auk / Blood (2008) Jericho Beach Music (JBM 0801)
Sinaa (2006) Jericho Beach Music (JBM 0601)



Born and raised in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, Tanya grew up surrounded by Inuit and western culture. In her teenage years she began experimenting with Inuit throat singing, developing her solo style.
Tanya has released two critically-acclaimed albums, Sinaa and Auk/Blood, both of which were nominated for Juno Awards and won Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards. In 2005, the world-renowned Kronos Quartet invited her to participate in two collaborative projects; Nunavut and Tundra Songs, which have performed across North America and Europe.
Tanya contributed to a number of award winning films and documentaries. She is presently at work on another album, slated for release in 2012.