Music » Feature

Triumphant Tanya Tagaq

Fresh off her Polaris Prize win, Tanya Tagaq turns traditional music into something fierce and penetrating at this year’s Pop Explosion

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Tanya Tagaq w/Paper Beat Scissors
Saturday, October 25, 8pm
St. Matthew's United Church, 1479 Barrington Street
$33/$35


Throat singer Tanya Tagaq is arguably our nation's best-known Aboriginal artist. She is also one of the most successful avant-garde artists working in any medium in Canada. Considering the degree to which Canadian cultural interests tend towards the safe and the traditional, and the fact that our nation continues to marginalize its Aboriginal communities, it's hard to say which claim is more astonishing. To say the least, there is no accounting for an artist as powerful and transgressive as Tagaq.

Drawing firstly from the ancient traditions of Inuk throat singing, Tagaq's music swells to include elements of avant-classical, metal and opera. The result is an entirely unique body of work that, thanks to Tagaq's fierce and penetrating vision, has resulted in a number of Juno nods and, most recently, the Polaris Prize for her 2014 album, Animism.

As can be expected, an artist like Tagaq winning a national music prize came with some controversy. Media outlets with severely selective memory claimed it a major win for the avant-garde, neglecting the prize's history of going to progressive acts such as anarchic Montreal outfit Godspeed You! Black Emperor and post-hardcore bandits Fucked Up, and an internet dust storm ensued, calling into question just how daring the recipient or awarding institution actually is.

Others decried Tagaq's triumph over tastemakers like Arcade Fire and Drake, painting her as a relative unknown outsider, despite the fact that Tagaq was touring internationally with Björk while those acts were still in short pants.

Despite the accolades, it seems that people still don't quite know what to make of a talent like Tanya Tagaq. Her live shows are known to be riveting, one-of-a-kind experiences rife with passion and physicality. Her albums are intricate works that match improvised experimentation with potent frameworks and narrative. Coupled with political undercurrents, it's no wonder her forward-thinking music is spinning heads and highlighting the silences that surround it.

Stream Animism here

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