Tanya Tagaq inspires Brooklyn indie band to change their name

April 24, 2017

Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq is no stranger to calling out the culturally insensitive, appropriative, or downright racist. But, unfortunately, that doesn’t mean those exchanges always result in change. For example, she lambasted Portland’s Black Pussy over their terrible name, but nothing came from it, as the band continues to show everyone that they’re unwilling to listen to the people they’re offending with it. She’s managed some wins, too, though: she threatened legal action over a movie named of the North when her music was used in the “painful and racist film” without her permission, and filmmaker Dominic Gagnon actually pulled her song from it. And now she’s convinced the Brooklyn indie project formerly known as Eskimeaux to change their name.

After a pretty epic series of tweets from Tagaq about the myriad ways people have appropriated the word Eskimo, including a designer in Montreal naming his shop Eskimeaux, songwriter Gabrielle Smith got in touch with her to talk about the issue. Their discussion eventually led to Smith changing the band name to Ó. The idea of changing the name had been in play for a while, Smith said in a statement to Pitchfork: “We’ve been talking about changing the band name for a little over a year now. The band name is the gateway to the project and I never set out to make it controversial, hurt people’s feelings, or bring up a kind of hardship I haven’t personally had to endure.”

Smith went on to add that she’s adopted, and the only information she knows about her birth father is that he is Tlingit, an indigenous group based on the Pacific Northwest coast of North America. “Everywhere I looked for more information the word ‘eskimo’ was commonplace,” Smith said.

Tagaq also released a statement following the exchange. “Gabrielle has taught me that people can be open and respectful when mistakes are made,” she said. “I am very pleased with this outcome of the band name change and our impending friendship. Pleasant surprises.” Pleasant surprises, indeed.


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About the Author

Matt Williams

Matt Williams is a writer and photographer. Born and raised on the Prairies in Winnipeg, he’s slowly made his way farther and farther east, spending a few years covering music in Toronto before running clear out of country and ending up on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. In between, he’s made numerous detours, interviewing and photographing countless artists across North America and beyond. He heads up Amplify’s Instrumental series, where he talks with musicians about the relationships they’ve formed with their most important tools.

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