In the Spotlight: Tanya Tagaq at The Banff Centre

Jul 24, 2014

Tanya Tagaq performing at The Banff Centre. 

To witness Tanya Tagaq become sonically undone against a sublime mountain backdrop in Banff is a really special thing to take in.
The soft-spoken Tagaq approached the stage at The Banff Centre’s outdoor Shaw Amphitheatre at 1:00 pm. in a shimmering ruched gown, explaining to the crowd her non-traditional approach to Inuit throat singing; her own innovative style is done solo—though throat singing traditionally involves two women facing one another. 
With jazz drummer Jean Martin and avant violinist Jesse Zubot—both known for their improvisational styles—joining her on stage, she announced: “They’re hardcore.” It should be noted that if what her band produces is hardcore, Tagaq is on another frequency altogether, an uncategorizable force that exists in a space that is only occupied by her.
Backed by pummeling drums and strings, Tagaq communicated her connection to the land through sound, simultaneously becoming a hybrid of human, animal and earth, swirling to the ground, flailing her hair, and motioning back up to the sky.

Tanya Tagaq with her “hardcore” violinist Jesse Zubot.

With breath and voice she moved from a goddess-like figure conjuring the beauty of the land to the truly primal while channeling animal sounds amid moans and howls. Like some kind of cosmic release, she just let go.
Her influences are broad though entirely experimental in spirit—be it the nods to hip hop when her breathing slowed to the stutter of a beatboxer or her interest in collaborating with improvisational jazz performers, or any type of artist for that matter.
This is not music meant for headphone listening. Tagaq’s sound stands alone in the future, and seen live she’s likely to blow your brain to bits.
The Banff Summer Arts Festival at The Banff Centre is the longest running arts festival in Canada. Running since 1933, their programing is diverse—including dance, opera, theatre; folk, world, and classical music; Indigenous Arts; as well as visual arts exhibitions; literary readings; films; and speakers.
To learn more about their coming events, go here
–Julijana Capone

About the Author

Brandon Wallis

Brandon is the Director of Marketing, Communications and Visitor Experience and for the National Music Centre and Editor-in-Chief of Amplify.

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