Award-Winning Performer Tanya Tagaq Explains Inuit Throat Singing

Award-winning performer Tanya Tagaq will bring her unique style of Inuit throat singing to the Cleveland Museum of Art’s (CMA) VIVA! & Gala performing arts series on Wednesday, March 10, at 7:30 p.m. This performance, in the museum’s newly refurbished Gartner Auditorium, marks the Cleveland debut for Tagaq, who has been described as “mind-blowing” (Time Out UK), “fiercely contemporary” (New York Times) and “remarkable” (Los Angeles Times). Inuit throat singing originated as a vocal contest between two women. Using call and response, the women try to see who can last the longest, getting faster and faster as the contest progresses. In six short years, Tagaq has brought the ancient vocal game to the heights of the experimental music scene, collaborating with Björk and the Kronos Quartet and touring with some of the world’s leading global artists. In an interview for the Washington Post, Tagaq explained her process:

You have to be really strong. I keep myself in top physical condition to do what I’m doing. Not Olympic condition or anything, but traditional throat songs are only about three minutes long, and it’s like that for a reason. … Almost more than what I do with my voice is the sort of social cleansing, almost. I think we’ve stopped being in touch with how we feel. Everyone’s so scared of looking like a jerk, and we swallow our emotions and it’s really sad because we’re such beautiful creatures. Hopefully when I’m singing and someone sees me being myself and not caring, maybe they could touch themselves, too, and maybe open up a bit?

Tagaq’s performance is part of the museum’s extensive programming to complement the exhibition Art of the American Indians: The Thaw Collection, which runs March 7 through May 30, 2010. Art and programming by contemporary artists showcase the vitality and creativity of Native North American people and their cultures. More information is available on the museum’s web site. In the video below, Tanya Tagaq demonstrates the sounds of throat singing:


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