Not far from 100 people gathered to enjoy the vocal tornado that is Canadian Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq, either motivated (no doubt) by her credentials as a Björk collaborator or just a personal fan of the lady, her work and the Inuit culture. I personally felt the duty to bring my daughter so she could witness human singing 🎶 power at its most primal, when it lets itself go and be.
Band on the wall biggest room slowly but surely packed up until all you could hear was a brouhaha of noise, until she appears and the chaos ceased replaced by a unison of claps. She came with two musicians violinist Jesse Zubot and drummer Jean Martin but as we were about to witness, their small number was soon to reveal itself to be disproportionate to the amount of vibrations they created in the room.
She introduces her musicians, and then proceeds to innocently tame the public by revealing an easy-going personality. Her manager went to school in Manchester and had an interestingly grim but, as the listeners acknowledge it, accurate description of the place. ‘Much like home’ she then retorts. A drunk woman then speaks out to the amusement of Tanya who replies just as if she was having a conversation with a sober interlocutor, and the public, embarrassed on behalf of Manchester for the second time, applauds her fair play and coolness. The rest of her speech appears more like a disclaimer for what there is to come, explaining that traditional Inuit singing is supposed to be with two women facing each other alternating in a kind of question and answer singing dialogue but that, obviously it would not be the case tonight; she also reveals that she does not have the opportunity to learn from the Inuit masters themselves but had to learn on her own, which she felt was an advantage. She also asked to not be filmed and definitely please not post or share any video as the sight of her own performances is well… in effect, I realised we were going to find out, as she went on to remind us that humans are animals before her two companions start playing.
For a bit less than 45 minutes, Tanya managed to hold the audience’s attention with a whole series of vocalisations that successively and sometimes all at once expressed a wounded prey or its predator, sensual and sexual assertion by both genres and a lot more. No basic instinct is spared and sometimes she seems possessed, alternating between the host and the invading guest, as she moans, babbles, screams (in many different ways and tones I might add), howled and exorcises every buried emotion without censorship. The accompaniment of her orchestral duo is amazingly in ‘harmony’, with percussions and other effects that seem to help her in and out of her trance, and an eerie violin that uses various techniques to produce sounds from creepy to lovely and that seem to mimic the general atmosphere, like the background music of a film. Those two sets of instrumentations set the natural environment in which Tanya’s character(s) articulates her flowing, robotic or more in-your-face movements. The whole complex setting and performance length has a progression that at times made me believe that Tagaq was giving vocal shape to her own mental representation of evolution, still within the idea of the human as an animal. She was truly only interrupted once, when the public, swollen with gratitude clapped mid-song. They exploded again at the very end, preceded by a “f*** yeah!!!” in complete admiration and acquiescing, for this real and raw experience and self- rediscovery. She came alive, on our behalf, as she dug into everything that makes us that animal, assertively embracing her sensuality, spirituality, femininity even virility, not just in vocals but in movement, and giving sonic shape to animism.
Not long ago, I was speaking about music and arts in general being a form of self-expression that is necessary to come out of the Black, our hiding places and safe cocoon, to express our full and true selves. It doesn’t just make us artists and creative. It makes us the original us, the unique individual (pardon the repetition) that we are, naturally. Tanya Tagaq is such a person. Her work is complex yet simple if the listener does not attempt to control it. It presents its traditional opposite, digital music “as an argument for the natural world” and as they are fused so naturally, the listener suddenly can no longer hear the contradiction.
As I look around the effect of her reconstructed nature on her audience, nodding head, not of approval but of being taken into the trance, are everywhere. The obnoxiously drunken woman is still around, making sentences in the void that her detachment created for herself, as everyone, even those nearer her and that she could annoy, are taken into a perhaps not so strange but definitely liberating journey.
[symple_button url=”http://tanyatagaq.com/” color=”gold” size=”default” border_radius=”3px” target=”blank” rel=”” icon_left=”” icon_right=””]Tanya Tagaq Website[/symple_button] [symple_button url=”http://bandonthewall.org/news/2015/08/just-announced-tanya-tagaq-3rd-september/” color=”black” size=”default” border_radius=”3px” target=”blank” rel=”” icon_left=”” icon_right=””]Band On The Wall Link[/symple_button]