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Tagaq, Tanya

Websites:  http://www.myspace.com/tagaq
Origin: Iqaluktuutiaq (Cambridge Bay), Victoria Island, Nunavut
Biography:

‘Indescribable’ is not an appropriate word to begin an artist’s bio, nor is it suitable as a description of a musician. The problem is this: when Tanya Tagaqs’ music fills your ears, she is genuinely one of those rare artists whose sounds and styles are truly groundbreaking. ‘Inuit throat singer’ is one part of her sonic quotient. So are descriptions like ‘orchestral’ ‘hip-hop-infused’ and ‘primal’…but these words are not usually used collectively. In the case of Tagaq, however – they are. So much has happened to Tagaq since the release of her debut CD Sinaa (meaning ‘edge’ in her ancestral language of Inuktitut) in 2005. The Nunavut-born singer has not just attracted the attention of some of the world’s most groundbreaking artists, they have invited her to participate on their own musical projects, not just singularly, but repeatedly. Tanya has recently recorded once again with Björk (specifically on the soundtrack for the Matthew Barney film Drawing Restraint 9) having already appeared on Björk’s Medúlla CD in 2004 and accompanied her on the Vespertine tour. In 2005, another monumental collaborative project came to fruition when the Kronos Quartet invited Tanya to participate on a project aptly titled Nunavut, which has been performed at select venues across North America, from its January 2006 debut at the Chan Centre in Vancouver, BC through to New York’s Carnegie Hall. Acclaim and respect has followed Tagaq on her solo ventures as well: both Sinaa and Auk / Blood were nominated for a Juno Award (Best Aboriginal Recording) and (Best Instrumental Recording) Both recordings won in several categories at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, including Best Female Artist. Tanya’s most recent project is the stunning video “Tungijuq” on which she collaborated with Jesse Zubot and Montreal filmmakers Felix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphael premiered at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival and the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. In 2009 Tanya also narrated and provided music for the National Film Board documentary, This Land. disc Auk—they are.

So much has happened to Tagaq since the release of her debut CD Sinaa (meaning ‘edge’ in her ancestral language of Inuktitut) in 2005. The Nunavut-born singer has not just attracted the attention of some of the world’s most groundbreaking artists, they have invited her to participate on their own musical projects, not just singularly, but repeatedly. Tanya has recorded once again with Björk (specifically on the soundtrack for the Matthew Barney film Drawing Restraint 9) having already appeared on Björk’s Medúlla CD in 2004 and accompanied her on the Vespertine tour.

In 2007, another monumental collaborative project came to fruition when the world-renowned Kronos Quartet invited Tanya to participate—as co-writer and performer—on a project aptly titled Nunavut, which has been performed at select venues across North America, from its January 2008 debut at the Chan Centre in Vancouver, BC through to New York’s Carnegie Hall.
Acclaim and respect has followed Tagaq on her solo ventures as well:
Sinaa was nominated for a Juno Award (Best Aboriginal Recording) and won in three categories at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, including Best Female Artist. With Auk (meaning ‘blood’ in Inuktitut) Tanya has taken her love and respect of the ancient musical tradition of throat singing and mixed it with a powerful infusion of contemporary—and contemporary classical—styles.

This new CD is a considerable expansion upon the work she created with her debut, Sinaa; while that was largely focused on her individual chants and vocals, this new record is perhaps more reflective of what Tagaq brings to her passionate and powerful live performances, specifically the energy and beauty that comes from collaboration.

Respected West Coast musicians Jesse Zubot (violin) and Cris Derksen (cello) form the backbone of the melodic instrumentation, while Graeme Peters and Mike Clark contribute the drums and electronic beats/samples respectively. Additionally, Auk contains an assortment of esteemed guest vocalists, from Juno Awardwinner Buck 65 to Faith No More/Lovage frontman Mike Patton (who is releasing Auk in the U.S. on his own Ipecac label) to dynamic human beat box artist Shamik. Juan Hernandez once again contributes his production skills to the mix, as he did for Tanya’s debut. The collaborative process is like oxygen for Tagaq, who hopes to continue making music with others—both in the studio and on tour—for years to come.

“In my head, I have 500 records and I don’t want to do that alone! I want to embrace the other beautiful musicians to help me pursue my goal of making all the music I dream of making. When I do music with somebody, it is so intimate and beautiful to find people that think the same way that I do.”

Auk is truly the culmination of Tagaq’s still-young but full career of music- making. Throat singing was something in her periphery while growing up in the incredible, extreme conditions of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. When Tanya left home to attend art school in Halifax, Nova Scotia, however, she found herself homesick for her family and friends. In a care package sent from her mother, Tagaq discovered the inclusion of throat-singing tapes and found herself mesmerized by them. “My mom was sending me these packages with tapes of people throat singing on it because she knew I missed home. I was crying, put it on and listened and just thought ‘how are they even doing that?’ I couldn’t even wrap my head around it, I was just amazed! So I tried to pick it apart and I found that the noises came quite easy to me. I’d sing in the shower every day, teaching myself and playing with the sounds. Prior to that, I had never even sung before.”

While the basis of throat singing is usually a back-and-forth play between two people, Tagaq was literally and figuratively on her own. Her debut of throat singing in public occurred when taking the stage along with a DJ at a friend’s post-wedding rave, then subsequently winning a local talent show with a friend in 1999. Those humble beginnings contributed to a chain of events and experiences that brings Tanya to where she is today: an exciting, full-bodied live performer that is able to move fluidly between genres, from a night of classically-infused music to an active participant in a rhythm-pumping house music party.

The diversity and sum composite of creative collaborations have clearly provided Tagaq with the opportunity to grow and expand the musical landscape upon which she treads; Auk is proof positive of that. Ranging from whispers and haunting melodies to full-force passion and power, the diversity and depth on Auk is self-evident: the thread that ties it all together is Tagaq’s candor and passionate commitment to her music. “I’m interested in baring everything…that to me is reality, and hopefully other people can sense that.”

Discography

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Tagaq, Tanya

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