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The weather of creativity

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Tanya Tagaq

Something a little different today: the music of Inuit "throat singer" Tanya Tagaq.

As a recent article in The New Yorker explains: "In her work, which includes collaborations with Björk and the Kronos Quartet, Tagaq uses breath and, more recently, vocalized shrieks and moans. She is known throughout Canada (her home is in Yellowknife, in the Northern Territories), and she won the 2014 Polaris Prize, beating out Drake and Arcade Fire. The album, Animism, has just been released Stateside -- her first U.S. record.

"Tagaq's mother was born and raised in an igloo on Baffin Island, in Nunavut Territory, but Tagaq, whose father is British and Polish, grew up in a house, in Cambridge Bay. She didn't hear throat singing until her mother gave her a cassette of two Inuit women doing it in the traditional manner, as a duet. 'I heard the land in the voices,' Tagaq explained." She then set out to learn how to throat sing herself -- first as a personal obsession, and then in professional performance from 2003 onwards, exploring the sound in combination with other musical forms from classical compositions to jazz and hip-hop.

In the video above, the singer discusses and demonstrates the tradition she's working in.

Below: "A String Quartet in Her Throat," her 2011 collaboration with The Kronos Quartet. The video is a window into the creative process involved in composing this piece.

And last:

"Tungijuq," a short film directed by Paul Raphaël and Félix Lajeunesse (2009). They describe it as "an organic expression of Inuit culture and traditional practices, featuring throat singer Tanya Tagaq as she goes through a transformation from human to animal."

It's strange, shamanic, and, be forewarned, rather bloody. (I don't recommend it to vegetarians!)  Not our usual Monday morning fare, but haunting and deeply rooted in the myths of the Inuit's subsistence hunting culture.

Arctic wolf