Red Orange playlist:

Tungijuq nominated for an award

Tanya Tagaq’s short film, Tungijuq, produced by Isuma Productions, with music by Tanya Tagaq and Jesse Zubot, filmed by Felix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphael, has been nominated for Best Multimedia at the Western Canada Music Awards. The winner will be announced at the Break Out West Conference, Kelowna, BC October 21 – 24.

Tungijuq is more of a short film than a music video. It is a thought-provoking meditation on the seal-hunt and what it means to the traditional way of life. Tanya created the mystical, form-shifting fantasy and filmmakers Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphael brought the idea to life. Jesse Zubot and producer Juan Hernandez joined Tanya to create the music and the seven minute film includes an appearance by Cannes-winning actor Zacharias Kunuk. Tungijuq is a cinematic and musical expression of the organic and indisputable reality of hunting in Inuit culture. The work was produced by Kunuk Cohn Productions and Igloolik Isuma Productions.

Tanya Tagaq’s “Auk” reviewed on Sonomu

Tanya Tagaq: “Auk” (Jericho Beach Records)

Tanya Tagaq may well be the most exciting aboriginal artist yet to emerge from North America. Her art is unclassifiably idiosyncratic yet in demand from an ever-widening audience. In early 2010 alone, she appeared in concert with Kronos Quartet, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and a brace of electronic musicians, including the inimitable Deadbeat. She´s made a movie that will appear at Sundance and she´s an accomplished painter, combining near-photo realism with bold colour and abstraction reminiscent of Norval Morrisseau. And yes, of course she´s worked with Björk.

Like many in our postmodern world, Tagaq did not grow up embracing traditional culture in her native Ikaluktuutiak in Nunavut, but rather turned to it and taught herself Inuit throat singing as a cure for homesickness while away at university in Halifax. This relative lateness and distance has the effect of preventing her from getting stuck in merely transmitting tradition and instead dragging it into the contemporary arts, where her interests lie, while retaining a clear connection to her landscape and heritage.

That this is not your traditional, ”anthropological” disc is apparent from the opening. After a mood-setting, ambient introduction, what sounds like traditional throat singing quickly proves to be a duet owing more to Meredith Monk than Inuit tradition, as she trades crazed ”riffs” with guest Mike Patton of Faith No More. On ”Growth”, she delves even deeper into her tradition, psyche and esophagus, in a wild collage of splintering violin, cello and drumkit.

Tagaq sustains admirable tension throughout the fifty-two minutes of Auk, between swirling wisps like ”Tategak” and intensely-focused pieces like ”Force”, a feral duet with Shamik Bilgi which reveals the uncanny family resemblance between throat-singing and beatboxing. In either mode, she appears to simply let the spirit move her, quite literally – she herself speaks of improvising out of possession.

”Hunger” might well be the most raw depiction of female sexuality committed to tape, with increasingly orgasmic moans setting the rhythm for her graphic description of what she wants to do for her lover and what she wants him to do to her.

The inclusion of two tracks featuring rapper Buck 65 might appear a sop to current popular tastes if it weren´t for the fact that she and the Maritimer are close friends and share many of the same concerns.

How much this is ”her” (and producer Juan Hernández´) album becomes startlingly apparent after a glance at the liner notes. While the sound is so full and rich, she is normally accompanied by no more than a violin, cello or electronic treatments.

Posted by Stephen Fruitman at 00:58, 31 May 2010 (

Hey, what’s that sound: Throat singing

A droning, pulverising sound of shamanic origin, this is ancient soul music from the east

by David McNamee (, Wednesday 2 June 2010 13.02 BST

What is it? A catch-all term covering different disciplines of extreme vocal technique from around the world, often recognised as a low, pulverising, drone-growl that western ears sometimes interpret as “scary”. But the history behind the throat singing traditions of Inuit tribes and the people of Siberia has strong cultural significance, and the overlapping, oscillating vocal tones (several different notes are produced in the mouth of one singer simultaneously) can be transcendent and beautiful.

Who uses it? The Canadian Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq has fashioned a powerful, abstract music all of her own, catching the ears of Mike Patton, Kronos Quartet and Björk. Tuvan exile Sainkho Namtchylak uses elements of throat singing in her challenging Yoko Ono-type music, which melds pop, jazz and avant garde. Huun Huur Tu are perhaps the Ladysmith Black Mambazo of Tuvan throat singing, with a prodigious back catalogue and collaboration credits with everyone from Frank Zappa to Nina Nastasia. Yat-Kha are edgier, covering Motörhead and working with Asian Dub Foundation. Check out our Spotify playlist.

How does it work? The Tuvan overtone technique involves producing a droning note that is raised and lowered by opening and closing the vocal cords until harmonic resonances appear. It is the abrupt open-and-shut of the vocal cords that (through a process known as biofeedback) apparently charges the higher harmonics with increasing energy, resulting in separation between up to six simultaneous tones. Inuit katajjaq (and the now-extinct Japanese rekukkara) throat singing is less dependant on overtones, instead two women will stand holding and facing each other and alternately sing either words, or half-words, or just abstract tones, faster and faster into each others mouths, with the “receiving” woman modulating the incoming stream of sound by adjusting the shape of her open mouth.

Where does it come from? Tuvan throat singing, like the (not dissimilar-sounding) Aboriginal didgeridoo is said to physically connect the singers to the spirituality of the Tuvan mountainside. The singing styles were supposedly modelled on the harmonic resonances herders would find naturally occurring around valleys or waterfalls, with some vocal styles configured to mimic the sounds of animals, wind or water. Inuit tradition doesn’t actually posit throat singing as music in itself, it evolved and continues as a game or competition that Inuit women would play to pass the time, the first woman to lose pace, run out of breath or start laughing is the loser.

Why is it classic? Throat singers sound as though they have a whole orchestra of instruments, that could never be invented by human hands, caged inside their bodies. It is ancient soul music.

What’s the best ever throat singing song? It’s not really a “song” medium, so don’t expect it to click with you instantly, but start with Tagaq and Huun Huur Tu.

Five facts and things

Tanya Tagaq admits she was not good at traditional competitive Inuit singing. It was by removing the technique from its role as a game, and imbuing her singing with deep emotion, that she found a new musical language.

There are some examples of overtone singing in European classical music. Stockhausen’s awesome Stimmung, for instance, or Tan Dun’s Water Passion after St Matthew.

The most famous non-traditional throat singer was the American blues musician Paul Pena, who brought self-taught throat singing into his bottleneck blues, and who in the 1999 documentary Genghis Blues travelled to Tuva to compete in throat singing contests.

What is it in the European musical psyche that links overtone singing to the demonic? Tenores is the profane counterpoint to cuncordu, Sardinia’s sacred polyphonic choir music. The styles are differentiated by the use of overtone singing in tenores, which also allocates roles in a four man-choir to each emulate the sounds of wind, sheep and cows.

There are four main disciplines of Tuvan overtone singing: khorekteer (“chest voice”), khomeii (a swirling, wind-like sound), sygyt (piercing, whistling bird noises), and kargyraa (the deep growling sound, said to be a figurative depiction of winter in Tuvan folklore).

Tanya Tagaq photos from the recent concert in Prague

Tanya Tagaq photos from the recent concert in Prague:

Tanya Tagaq at Festival Barroquisimo

Tanya Tagaq with Cris Derksen (cello) and Michael Red (DJ)
Recorded in Puebla, Mexico, May 1st 2010
Thanks to Festival Barroquisimo and Miguel Angel Valdes Alavez of Nexos Producciones

Tanya Tagaq on film

What We Eat: Inuit throat-singer Tanya Tagaq, and Cannes-winning filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk, talk back to Brigitte Bardot and anti-sealhunting lobby on the eternal reality of hunting.

Selected for Sundance 2010, Toronto International Film Festival, Best Short, imagineNATIVE Film Fest 2009…

Tungijuq is more of a short film than a music video. It is a thought-provoking meditation on the seal-hunt and what it means to the traditional way of life. Tanya created the mystical, form-shifting fantasy and filmmakers Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphael brought the idea to life. Jesse Zubot and producer Juan Hernandez joined Tanya to create the music and the seven minute film includes an appearance by Cannes-winning actor Zacharias Kunuk. Tungijuq is a cinematic and musical expression of the organic and indisputable reality of hunting in Inuit culture. The work was produced by Kunuk Cohn Productions and Igloolik Isuma Productions.

Geologist (from Animal Collective) interviews Tanya Tagaq for Brightest Young Things

Geologist Interviews Tanya Tagaq
March 12, 2010

Throat-singing, a guttural style of singing or chanting, is one of the world’s oldest forms of music. For those who think the human voice can produce only one note at a time, the resonant harmonies of throat-singing are surprising. In throat-singing, a singer can produce two or more notes simultaneously through specialized vocalization technique taking advantage of the throat’s resonance characteristics. By precise movements of the lips, tongue, jaw, velum, and larynx, throat-singers produce unique harmonies using only their bodies. (source: Smithsonian’s Folkways)

Perched on top of the throat singing celebrity world is Tanya Tagaq, a woman from the Nunavut autonomous region in northern Canada, a gateway to the North Pole, who strayed away from the traditional duet form of performing to emerge as a solo throat artist with some mainstream recognition. If we were to compare her to anyone, for your young indie-rock centric minds to relate to, it would probably be Bjork, in the sense that the music her body produces is both one of the most unusual things you’ll ever hear, and completely and utterly appealling and accessible at the same time.

With birds of a feather sticking together, it should come as no surprise to learn that everyone who is anyone in the “experimental” music universe loves her: from Björk who included her vocals on 2004’s “Medulla” album and 2005’s “Vespertine” tour, to Mike Patton whose Ipecac label released her “Auk/Blood” album, and performances with the Kronos Quartet in 2008, who called her “the Jimi Hendrix of Throat singers” (and, as any good quote it stuck).

Naturally, when we heard she was coming to DC (she is performing @ National Geographic tonight) we were

1. dead set on featuring her
2. aware we could not send JUST ANYONE to interview her

Cue Brian Weitz, aka Geologist from Animal Collective, old friend of BYT , fan of Tanya and not a fan of interviews. This is what transpired.

Geologist: What sets Inuit throat singing apart from other forms of throat singing (such as that from Tuva)?

Tanya Tagaq: From what I know, Tuva singing has a much longer exhaling technique and process where the sound comes out at the same time as one sound.

Geologist: Is it just technical, or a result of the music trying to express different ideas and emotions?

Tanya: Inuit throat singing has more inward and outward breaths and uses separate sound. That’s the technical side.

Geologist: Does Inuit throat singing have a primary purpose? For example, is it traditionally a spiritual practice or a kind of folk music used to tell stories?

Tanya: The primary purpose of traditional Inuit throat singing is a laughing game/competition to see who can last the longest without running out of breath, messing up, or laughing.

Geologist: How does your own music either fit into that tradition or stand apart from it?

Tanya: My own style of Inuit throat singing is different from the traditional style because the stories that I’m telling comes from what I’m feeling. It’s emotionally driven.

Geologist: Could you speak a bit about how and why this style of singing resonates with you and allows you to express your ideas and emotions? Related to that, how often do you use lyrics in your music versus vocal abstractions and is there a difference in how you use those tools to express yourself?

Tanya: This style resonates with me because I’m Inuk and it’s part of my culture. I find lyrics to be confining and I only use them if I really have something to say.

Geologist: How much of your music is improvised and how much is composed? Is it the same when you are recording versus playing live? I’ve been asked this many times while on the other side of the interview table, and I always found it to be kind of an uninteresting question because it is so frequently asked – but I swear I am curious!

Tanya: 90% improvised, 10% composed (Live). Recording is different, more like 50/50 because I have preset ideas before I begin recording.

Geologist: Why is Inuit throat singing traditionally a female art form?

Tanya: My suspicion is that the men would be hunting for a long period of time and the women were bored.

Geologist: Following the previous question, music in general allows for collaborations that transcend differences of gender, race, age etc. In fact, a lot of your own collaborations with other artists show this to be true. Do you feel there is still a place in the world for the performance of a specific style of music to be restricted to one group of people?

Tanya: Yes well it depends on your intentions. It sounds stranger to me if someone was doing Inuit throat singing, but not from the traditional region, that might bother me. To me it’s still sacred and nestled in the culture. But in some cases it works. Look at Genghis Blues. That was OK. He was really good at it. It depends. I do think there still is a place for specific music styles that work for a certain race, gender, or group of people.

Geologist: I’ve read that throat singing is traditionally performed as a duet between two women who compete to see who can vocalize the longest. Have you ever performed in a duet with another female throat singer in this way?

Tanya: Oh yeah I’ve performed many many times in a duet with traditional throat singers. One day I’d love to have my traditional throat singers open up for my show.

Geologist: What inspired you to take a style of music usually performed by multiple people and perform it as a solo artist?

Tanya: I perform solo because I learned it on my own. So I ended up making all of the noises by myself. When I did it alone, I found out that I could express myself in the same way as I do with my painting or my cooking. It became an outlet, so that’s what happened.

Geologist: When you collaborate with someone like Bjork or Mike Patton, do you think about the fact that you’re exposing their fans, maybe for the first time, to throat singing, and if so, do you feel any sort of responsibility to the Inuit people or to the traditions of the art form?

Tanya: When I open up my show, I always talk about the traditional throat singing first to possibly peak the audience’s interest. So hopefully they will be more inclined to check out the traditional style after they leave my performance. So I hope I’m helping.

Geologist: How would you characterize the reaction to your music, specifically in the U.S. and Europe? I ask because sometimes the public has a tendency to treat music from lesser-known cultures as some kind of cultural novelty, or something to be observed from an anthropologic standpoint. I think some of what I’ve asked in this interview is even guilty of that. Does the reaction to your music ever feel like this to you, or do audiences for the most part seem to connect to your music in a more universal way?

Tanya: For me I find that every audience is different regardless of location. Sometimes I get a standing ovation, while sometimes I get the “what the hell is she doing” reaction. It really is a performance-by-performance basis and not regional. I find if people are trying to look for the past in me they won’t find it. The audiences are so varied, sometimes intellectual based, sometimes freaks, depends on the venue.

Geologist: Lastly, when you lived in Nova Scotia, did you ever watch “Trailer Park Boys?” I was a big fan of the early seasons.

Tanya: Yes I love Trailer Park Boys. I love them. It’s hilarious. I actually know Cory Bowles.

Tanya Tagaq interviewed by Anil Prasad

Tanya Tagaq
Instinctual invocations
by Anil Prasad
Copyright © 2010 Anil Prasad. All rights reserved.

Tanya Tagaq’s passion for propelling her art form forward is striking. She’s the world’s most well-known Inuit throat singer and is determined to integrate her mercurial vocals—which range from the raw and guttural to the refined and soaring—into as many contexts as possible. Her most recent CD, Auk/Blood, is a testament to that philosophy. It showcases her talents in settings as diverse as orchestral music, electronica, spoken word, pop, and hip-hop. Collaborators on the disc include vocalist Mike Patton, rapper Buck 65, beat-box artist Shamik, violinist Jesse Zubot, and cellist Cris Derksen. Her pleasingly difficult-to-describe approach has attracted a global audience, as well as several high-profile admirers.

Tagaq’s first major break came when Björk learned of her unique talents and invited her to perform on her 2000 world tour. She was subsequently invited to take part in sessions for Björk’s Medulla album, an all-vocal effort, and one of the famed Icelandic musician’s most adventurous efforts to date. She also collaborated with Björk on her soundtrack for the 2005 Matthew Barney film Drawing Restraint 9. Björk reciprocated by contributing to Sinaa, Tagaq’s 2005 debut release. Another major partnership came to fruition in 2006, when Kronos Quartet asked Tagaq to work with them on “Nunavut,” a commissioned piece named after the Canadian territory where she was born and raised.

Her particular form of throat singing, known as katajjaq, is typically performed by two women who face each other and express themselves in a call-and-response manner. Tagaq fell under the spell of katajjaq after she moved from Nunavut to Halifax, Nova Scotia to attend art school in the late ’90s. While there, her mother sent her katajjaq music to remind her of her roots. Intrigued by the recordings, Tagaq started engaging in throat singing as a private endeavour. Eventually, she summoned the courage to begin performing her self-taught, solo version of katajjaq in front of audiences, accompanied by a DJ providing electronic backdrops and soundscapes for her to respond to. Her unique take on this traditional music was soon embraced by adventurous listeners across Canada, as well as the country’s many arts organizations and festivals that took the initiative to promote her singular sounds.

Innerviews caught up with Tagaq backstage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, just prior to an impressive performance during her debut U.S. solo tour. To say Tagaq is fascinating and provocative in conversation is a dramatic understatement.

You’ve said your dream is to interpret your home through your music. Elaborate on that for me.

That’s definitely my dream, but my music isn’t necessarily solely based on interpreting the land at home. It’s also about everybody’s experiences. I’m really fortunate to have been born and raised in Nunavut, because when I travel the world, I see that people elsewhere seem a little lost. I have very maternal instincts and always want to help people who are hurting. I think the reason people are lost and hurting is because they’ve lost a lot of their instincts to feel out situations and be in tune with one another. Humans have an extreme capacity for emotional and spiritual growth. I think people would be much happier if they were more in touch with that, as well as if they took more cues from the way things are in nature.

If I’m confused by a situation, I’ll place it within my home. I’ll think about how animals I’ve seen would behave and apply a more complex twist to it related to human nature. I like thinking of people as animals. Through my music and performances, I hope people can find a healing capacity or joy. I also hope each person takes something different away from my work that they need. I think of my music in the same way as when someone reads a book that says “A beautiful woman walks in the room.” Everybody will have a different image in their mind, as opposed to a movie in which it’s put out there in concrete terms for the viewer. As with a book, people should fill in what they need through the experience of listening.

The new album has a really diverse group of contributors. Describe what you look for in a collaborator.

All of the people that worked with me on the album are my friends, except Mike Patton, who I didn’t know before, but I really love what he does. The rest of the contributors are people I want to hang out with and go for coffee with, and they just happen to be amazing musicians as well. If you’re an asshole I’m not working with you. [laughs] I would never work with someone I don’t enjoy spending time with, no matter how good they are.

I was torturous to the musicians in that I brought them in and said “Okay, let’s start!” They’d say “What do we play?” I’d respond “Whatever you want!” [laughs] Then we’d take excerpts from what they did and put songs together when the musicians weren’t around. There are also some songs that were recorded when we were all together too. So, it’s a kind of Frankenstein album built from different parts. In fact, there were five albums worth of material created through this strange process of picking things out, cutting them up and putting them together. I think the next album will happen when I’ve met enough new people to create another interesting stew.

Tell me about the inspiration behind some of the album’s key tracks.

I had very distinct, preconceived notions for some of the songs like “Tategak,” which is the name of my mother and my daughter. I was picturing that song like DNA strands, but it’s not just our physical existence that goes through these strands. I believe generational memories flow through them as well. Something my grandmother did could be echoing inside of me today. So, it’s about that whole concept and how each of us are part of this really long road that keeps going. I think this especially holds true for women.

The song “Tiriganiak” is about foxes at home. The population of every animal constantly fluctuates at home. For instance, every four years, there will be something like 500 lemmings around. That means the foxes have a lot to eat, and therefore they will survive. Then next year, it’s a big fox year. There was one year where there would be five foxes for every garbage can, so we were running around with handguns going off to reduce the population. PETA would be so mad about that, but the foxes are giving kids rabies. It’s a small town and there’s so many of the foxes, that something has to be done. I have a very different way of looking at things because I’m from Cambridge Bay in Nunavut and have spent a lot of time living there.

The song “Sinialuk” refers to the “big sleep” or dangerous sleep—like if you have a concussion or hypothermia. If you’re that hurt, your body’s natural impulse is to go to sleep. I’ve known people that have frozen to death out on the land, so the song brought out those emotions. Another piece called “Hunger” was the result of being on tour for a month and not getting laid. I wrote a steamy email to my boyfriend and thought it was nice writing, so I turned it into a song.

When you first collaborated with Kronos Quartet in 2006 on the piece “Nunavut”, you said it was a transformative experience that would influence your working methods going forward. What effect did it have on you?

Those guys made me get my shit together, because they’re so structured, and I’m way too open. They helped me find a little stream that I’m starting to follow and it will result in creating music with a lot more structure to it. I think for my next album, I’ll actually write some music and not be afraid to sing along with it, and put that together with throat singing. I am concerned about using words and putting too much description into them though. I like the mind filling in things on its own. Like I said earlier, people should be able to take what they want from the music, but if there are lyrics, things might get too specific. I personally like it when people come to my concerts and say “Fuck, this sucks!” and then walk out, or if they cry. I always say to them “If that’s what you needed to get out of it, then you should explore that.”

Will the Kronos Quartet collaboration be recorded?

I hope so. There’s been talk of it, but we’re all very busy, and when we work together, we move at a snail’s pace. We’ve written another new piece that I feel is even better than the first one. We’ll be debuting it in New York City next February.

You worked with Buck 65 on some very interesting throat singing-meets-hip-hop hybrids on the new disc. Tell me about how that collaboration emerged.

A lot of people perceive me to have pursued this big hip-hop thing, but really, I met him in 1995 when we both attended school in Halifax. We’ve been friends for a long time, and we always wanted to work together, and for this album, we finally did. We went to his house and he had just been through a harrowing breakup. I brought my little girl with me and we sat around watching Spider-Man. Then I said, “I want to have one really sexy, steamy thing on the album.” We all breathe, eat and fuck. We all feel anger, hatred and intense passion. They’re all important, but people don’t talk that much about what they’re feeling. I can’t stand chit-chat. Chit-chat really pisses me off. I don’t have time for it. It’s so boring. So, I wanted to create some real reflections on life on this album, and we did that together in the music we created. I also said “I want one that’s really sweet and heartfelt.” I didn’t know what he was going to write, and when I heard it, I thought it was so nice. I didn’t realize that I was helping him out at that time as a friend, by providing an outlet for his feelings. I didn’t know how much he was hurting. So, he wrote something gentle related to that.

How have you evolved as a vocalist and musician since your career began?

When I first started, I was so jazzed about doing it and being onstage, that I wanted to be really intense all the time. I couldn’t get over that. Now that I’ve done it for so long and I’m getting older, my expression is getting richer, but it’s calming down too. I’m getting more intricate, writing more songs and not just making the same noises over and over again. I’m also opening my heart more. I’m not scared to be totally monstrous, or even suck on the microphone wire, if I feel like it. I want to pull my approach like taffy and take it into different places and get a lot uglier, weirder and provocative. I once met a Greenlandic mask dancer who was so timid and sweet in person, but she’d do these shows that explore fear, sex, love, and humour. She’d take her pants and underwear off and make people hump in the audience. I thought “Wow, it’s very interesting when you mix those things together, because you don’t normally put sex and fear together in the arts.”

I’m interested in why people get uncomfortable with these things. What’s the big shame with sex and nudity? Before Christianity came through, in Inuit culture, having sex was as natural as pooping. There was no-one saying “Oh, you’re dirty because you’ve done this.” Sex is one of the most beautiful things you can be a part of. So, why are people so fucking uptight about it? There are so many strange things today, like why are girls not eating right now? In the animal kingdom, the weakest creatures get the scraps. But women make the people. We have them in our belly. We’re the creators. We’re beautiful. So, why are girls starving themselves? And why are they risking their lives slicing open their tits and putting plastic in their bodies? All of this revolves around sex. Everybody does it. Everybody feels it. You don’t need to be “hot” to have sex. All these things about American culture confuse me. A lot of religions confuse me too. People dying and hurting each other for belief systems freaks me out.

Reflect on working with Björk on her Medulla album and your Sinaa release.

She’s a musical genius, and really nice and easy to get along with. She’s really down to earth. She seems like such a normal person. It annoys me when people think she’s weird. She’s good-hearted and you can sense that coming through. You know what’s weird? It’s those people that shove people aside on the street. And it’s people that don’t stop their cars when someone with a baby carriage is trying to cross the street, and then they beep at them. Those are really weird people. As for Björk, she’s really easy to work with and I learned a lot from her. She said “Just do whatever” to me. She never once told me to make a specific note or sound. It was really nice to work with someone in that way.

Björk and I have a lot of similarities. She feels like a Northern girl from back home. She’s really nice, but has a “don’t fuck with me” thing going on. We’re like that too. I noticed that when I lived in Halifax as well. People in Halifax are super-nice, but if you cross a line, you’re gonna get your ass kicked. [laughs] You don’t say anything about other people’s moms. You don’t call people out. That’s much different from Spain, where I used to live for several years. Some weird guy once came up to my kid and started saying all kinds of bad stuff. My ex was standing there, stoically, while this guy said “I hope your kid dies from cancer.” That’s a put-down in Spain. It’s really strange. It’s really illegal to fight in Spain, so this is what some people do instead. If that had happened at home, the guy would have been instantly pulverized.

You’re an accomplished visual artist. Does your artwork influence your music?

My painting is about creating a feeling related to my home. I want to dive into my artwork more deeply and get more sticky. It’s a lot more internal right now. It’s not about bells, buzzers and whistles. It’s more about creating feelings of calm. It’s a whole different ballgame for me. I’d say food influences my singing more than my visual art does. Food is the catalyst in my brain. If I don’t eat, I’m really bitchy. [laughs] I’d be the worst anorexic ever. A good meal helps all my senses. I’m really hedonistic when it comes to my senses. I love seeing vivid things. To me, blood splattered on the snow or a freshly-killed creature are really beautiful to look at—when it’s still warm and you’re feeling the life that used to be in it ebb away. That’s because I grew up in hunting culture.

PETA can kiss my motherfucking ass, those bastards. They took the Olympic inukshuk, and made it into a guy with a spear, killing a seal. What they don’t understand is that when we kill seals, we typically put snow in the seals’ mouths and melt it, so their spirits aren’t thirsty. We respect what we kill. It’s not like you’re going to McDonald’s. When you respect an animal, I think it’s totally fine to eat it. PETA only picks on seals because they’re cute and because they can. Go protest outside of McDonald’s. Go do something within your own culture. We were almost autonomous within the Canadian federal government before the seal ban started. It’s like saying “You can’t use leather” or “No more beef.” I am really annoyed by this. I have a video coming out called Tungijuq about shape-shifting, the circle of life and the seal-hunt and what it means. It will be opening at the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s only six minutes, and has lots of nudity, blood and gore. It’s fun. [laughs]

In addition to you, a few throat singers from Tuva and Mongolia have made recent waves. What do you make of the increasing interest in this form?

I think it’s related to people searching for meaning and for themselves. They’re looking for something that will wake them up. People are also really scared. You know, wolves don’t go to hell when they kill caribou. They shrug it off and move on. They don’t go on Prozac. So, I find it really interesting how we don’t address death properly in this culture. Everyone is scared of it. It’s so obviously going to happen all of us. Shouldn’t we all be better prepared, and shouldn’t we also prepare our souls so we aren’t scared?

I think people are also looking for sounds that aren’t from a city. I remember being intrigued when I moved to Halifax for school from Nunavut. I remember sitting in the park and all these ducks were there beside me. I was so used to seeing them much further away at home. I just wanted to kill one and take it home. [laughs] It’s my culture. I was wondering “Can you eat pigeons here?” I just didn’t know. People that are born and raised in cities know there’s something inside of them that’s missing—the peace of being on the land. And the danger as well. Everything about that existence makes sense and that’s what I’m driving towards. I’m providing a bit of equilibrium and bridging a gap.

Do you feel you’ve taken on the role of cultural ambassador?

I begrudgingly and reluctantly accept that to be the case. There’s nothing I can do about that. There are only 27,000 of us. I’m travelling and singing and creating a representation, but it’s not something I want to carry at all. I’d do this no matter what culture I came from. If I was Russian, I would have taken up Russian singing and done something with it. Singing is how I express myself. I do similar things with cooking. I put really weird ingredients together. The same holds true for my painting. The same goes for sex. This is just who I am. People are upset about what I do at home. Some traditionalists feel I am trying to suck the culture dry or change it. I’ve been branded a heretic, and I find that completely ridiculous.

What is your response to those people?

I keep hearing them say “Why does it have to be so sexual? It’s because sex sells, doesn’t it?” My reaction is “Should I do what the rest of Inuit women do and wait until I’m drunk and then throw myself at someone? That’s better, isn’t it?” [laughs] Sex is a huge part of my life. And I’m just expressing my life. If they don’t like it, too bad. I don’t get it. Why are they so violently against what I do? I don’t care what they’re doing. If they’re really that concerned about it, then learn traditional Inuit throat singing and teach your kids. That will keep it alive in a way that’s comfortable for them. Why do they care about what one person’s doing? They’re probably miserable anyway, if they’re carrying those thoughts around. Personally, I have no time to look for things I don’t like. [laughs] That’s not in my personality. There will be naysayers for every situation in the world and there’s nothing I can do about it. I have worked really hard. I didn’t get here for nothing or by just fucking around. Today, I’m hurting. I’ve got the flu, but I’m still going to perform anyway. That’s what you do when you love something. And I love this. Something about it truly heals me.

Kronos Quartet with Tanya Tagaq

Inuit performer ‘totally fearless’

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