Tag Archives: avant-garde

Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq

Indigenous artists are often placed within the tidy binary of traditional vs. modern. Indigenous culture is considered frozen and incompatible with modernity. The creative and communicative outputs of Inuk avant-garde vocalist Tanya Tagaq demonstrate a larger political project of undermining mainstream representational practices regarding Indigenous identity (particularly in Canada) and presenting Indigenous-centered sounds and perspectives. While Tagaq has constructed an artistic identity that challenges the simple binaries of past/present and traditional/modern, mainstream media has relied on representational practices of a settler colonialist mindset. Tagaq makes her agency clear in both her artistic output and in her social media activity. Media coverage of Indigenous artists and Tagaq in particular, dismantle the self/other and modern/traditional binaries with reference to her albums–Animism (2014) and Retribution (2016)–and social media wars in which Tagaq’s celebrity status has incited both reactive and active critique of Indigenous (and specifically Inuit) representation in Canada. In turn, she presents her own narrative as a deliberate strategy of cultural and political self-determination.

Cover art for Animism

Tagaq’s music often tackles themes of environmentalism and Indigenous rights. The Inuk throat singer uses live performance and audiovisual media to engage themes of climate change and environmental violence. Her work diversifies the discourse of environmentalism to include the voices and environmental trauma experienced by marginalized peoples, specifically North American Indigenous-centered sounds and perspectives. Songs such as Fracking and Nacreous respectively are simultaneously expressions of ecological protest and healing, as Tagaq listens with urgency and uses embodied musical practice to explore the aurality of pipeline politics and other forms of ecological imbalance and harm.

Read on in “Welcome to the tundra: Tanya Tagaq’s creative and communicative agency as political strategy” by Alexa Woloshyn (Journal of popular music studies 29/4 [2017]) and “The aurality of pipeline politics and listening for nacreous clouds: Voicing indigenous ecological knowledge in Tanya Tagaq’s Animism and Retribution” by Kate Galloway (Popular music XXXIX/1 [2020], 121–144).

Below is an improvised throat singing performance by Tagaq, followed by the video for the song Colonizer (from her 2022 album Tongues).

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Filed under North America, Performers, Politics, Popular music