Speak softly, grunt loudly. That’s the style preferred by Tanya Tagaq, the Inuk throat-singer who beat-out nominees such as Arcade Fire and Drake to win the Polaris Music Prize in Toronto on Monday with her fourth album Animism.
“People I have tried to teach throat singing, I have told them they have to spend one year trying to sound like their dog first,” Tanya Tagaq has said. Her chosen style, a combo of inhaling and exhaling to create a grunting noise, has traditionally been performed by two women, but Tagaq created her own solo style, then iced it with electronic, orchestral and metal touches for a sound that out-head-bangs most reigning rock ’n roll kings (certainly the ones that may have shown up uninvited on your iPhone recently).
Whether quietly vulnerable or wailing like she’s dueting with a demon, she’s not afraid to look crazy, or ugly, or weak, or monstrous, because she’s never not the woman in charge onstage. Her performance at the Polaris Gala had hipsters’ heads exploding (watch from around 3:19:00 on):
That rock ’n roll attitude comes out in her controversial politics too. “People should wear and eat seal as much as possible,” she said onstage with her 10-year-old daughter Naia, her soft speaking voice contrasting the no-holds-barred delivery of her performance just minutes before. “If you imagine an indigenous culture thriving and surviving on sustainable resource, wearing seal and eating it, it’s delicious and there’s lots of them. And f–k PETA.”
PETA responded in a statement, clarifying that they support the traditional Inuit seal hunt, and target the commercial hunt in Newfoundland only. That’s not good enough for Tagaq. In an interview with the Globe and Mail on Tuesday, she explained, “There is a relative level of poverty in Newfoundland as well. Those protesters are taking food out of kids’ mouths.”
“I’m not against animals,” she clarified. “They are us. We are them. We are meat. We’re the same as them.”