Ah, the hypocrisy of Western history and horrific nature of colonialism. Most of us know how the white man hungers for power and thirsts for domination of the land and over people (women specifically). Most people can recognize how even in this modern era, there are deep rooted problems based off this past continuing today. But most people is not everyone, and we need warriors to help us with our leap into the future – to get over these hurdles our ancestors placed before us.
Luckily, we have been blessed with a particular warrior, who embodies the power of woman and nature, in the form of Inuit singer Tanya Tagaq.
Canadian born into the primarily Inuit town of Cambridge Bay, Tagaq was able to form a true bond with the most powerful woman of all, mother nature. “I’m so happy I grew up in a place where the land owns the people,” the singer explained to The Huffington Post. “People have gotten pretty drunk off their power, but here, nature is in charge.”
Our outspoken advocate of indigenous rights continues, explaining, “I find it very interesting when people vilify indigenous people that live off the land for hunting. It’s totally different when you are in nature. A wolf isn’t evil for killing a caribou. It is a peaceful act and you get it done quickly. It just happens and it is just a part of life.”
“A lot of people eat meat but would never be able to kill anything,” she added. “I find that kind of disgusting. If you can’t kill it, don’t eat it. It represents the disconnect that makes up so many of society’s problems. You don’t care how many poor people picked your coffee or how many sweatshops it takes to make your iPhone.”
Our heroine of this story faced plenty of adversity herself, leaving her hometown at the age of 15 to continue with her schooling at a residential school, which removes indigenous children from their families and encourages them to assimilate to dominant Canadian culture. Residential schools are also notorious for their history of abuse.
Post residential school, Tagaq attended university in Nova Scotia and without surprise, had become quite homesick. To help her daughter feel at home while she was far away and bring her closer to her roots, Tagaq’s mother sent her tapes of traditional Inuit throat singing, or katajjaq. Previous to this, Tagaq had never heard any throat singing as it was virtually banned when she grew up (Surprise! Mainstream institutions are still prone to wiping away indigenous customs. In other news, water is wet).
Throat singing, traditionally, is a call-and-response between two women, which originates as a form of entertainment for when the men were out hunting. Although it’s more of a breathing game than a form of music, Tagaq has adopted this and incorporated it into her music career. Although she had no formal training, her mothers packages inspired her to practice the traditional weaving pattern of inhales, exhales, gulps and wheezes her people practiced before.
To no surprise, it was not long before her remarkable sound was recognized. One night, when jamming around a campfire at an arts festival in Canada, Tagaq was approached by a few of Björk’s friends, who were just as entranced as we are by her. A few weeks later, Tagaq was en route to NYC to collaborate on the 2004 album “Medúlla,” and shortly thereafter was touring around the world with the Icelandic icon.
As of this year, Tagaq has released four full-length albums, and in 2014, her album “Animism” took home Canada’s prestigious Polaris Prize (beating out Drake and Arcade Fire). In her album released this year “Retribution,” she covers Nirvana’s “Rape Me,” which alludes to the horrifying number of indigenous women who have gone missing or been murdered in recent decades. “It’s very scary to know the stats are against you,” Tagaq said in the Spotify commentary accompanying the album. “It can be applied to women and it can be applied to missing and murdered indigenous women as well.”
We could go on and on about our favorite sacred femme, but we’ll just let you find out more (if you care to) in your own time.
This November 17, (Thursday), at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Tagaq will perform live at 8 pm against the backdrop of Robert J. Flaherty’s 1922 silent film “Nanook of the North,” accompanied by percussionist Jean Martin and violinist Jesse Zubot.