“I am part of We Canada because I grew up in the North, a clean, vast example of the earth. I have also travelled and witnessed the demise we are bringing upon ourselves with our lack of respect for the earth. I want to make sure we can maintain a balance. I want to cultivate the hope that we can survive here. I want to garner optimism through change.”
Born and raised in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, in Canada’s high arctic, Tanya Tagaq grew up surrounded by Inuit and western culture. Although traditional music was always present, it was the sounds of pop giants such as Janis Joplin and The Doors that first captured her imagination. It wasn’t until her teenage years, while away at school, that she began experimenting with Inuit throat singing. She gradually developed her own solo style, fusing her contemporary interests with the ancient art form. Her first professional gig at a festival in Inuvik won the admiration of friends of the great Icelandic singer Bjork, eventually leading to an appearance on the artist’s 2004 CD, Medulla, and a chance to accompany her on tour. The rest, as they say, is history.
As a solo artist, Tanya has released two critically acclaimed albums with her band – Sinaa and Auk/Blood – both of which were nominated for Juno Awards (Best Aboriginal Recording and Best Instrumental Recording). The albums also took first place in several categories at the 2005 and 2008 Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, including Best Female Artist (2005). Her commitment to stretching her musical boundaries has led to projects in different mediums and with ground-breaking artists. In 2005, the world-renowned Kronos Quartet invited her to participate in a monumental collaborative Project Nunavut, which was performed at venues across North America and Europe, including a stop at New York’s Carnegie Hall. The ensemble reunited in 2007 for the creation of Tundra Songs by Derek Charke, which dazzled audiences at the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad and subsequent performances on international stages.
More recently, she has ventured into film, contributing to the soundtrack for Diaries of Knut Rasmussen, and wearing dual hats as musician/narrator for the award-winning National Film Board documentary, This Land. Her latest film project was the stunning video Tungijuq, for which she collaborated with musician Jesse Zubot and Montreal filmmakers Felix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphael. The film premiered to rave reviews at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival and 2010 Sundance Film Festival and also won for Best Short Drama at the 2009 imagine NATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival Awards.
Presently at work on another album, Tanya has no shortage of ideas for new projects, ranging from the start of a throat-singing choir to experimenting in “metal” territory. She’s also eager to continue her collaborations with artists outside her musical zone. Wherever she lands, you can be sure the result will be out of this world.