ON "60 MINUTES": INUIT THROAT SINGING GOES GLOBAL
Singer from Canada's Arctic Blends Old and New to Create a Unique Sound
Tanya Tagaq's music isn't for everyone, but that's not the point. Tagaq is an Inuit throat singer, keeper of an ancient art form, who has brought the traditional sound screeching onto the international scene by layering it with elements of punk rock, heavy metal and electronica.
Hailing from Nunavut, a territory in Canada's Arctic, Tagaq once attended residential school, where the Canadian government sent indigenous children to assimilate to Western culture and where Inuit languages and traditions were all but banned. She taught herself to throat sing in her 20s, and her performances now serve as celebrations of Inuit culture as well as acts of resistance against a government that tried to wipe out her culture.
Those performances have also made her a pop star. She is on perpetual tour of the world's concert halls; critics have heaped praise on her mash-up of Inuit tradition and contemporary experiment. Jon Wertheim profiles Tagaq for the next edition of 60 MINUTES Sunday, May 5 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Tagaq begins each performance with a warning for her audience that they may not like what they're about to hear. At times, she goes so far as to tell her audience it's OK to leave. "Because I feel like it should be consensual. Like you shouldn't have to sit there and suffer through it if you don't like it," she tells Wertheim.
60 MINUTES traveled high above the Arctic Circle to Tagaq's hometown of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. There, she demonstrates the traditional form of Inuit throat singing and tells Wertheim it's really a friendly competition between two women. Born in an igloo while the men were out hunting, it is a call-and-response game Inuit women invented 1000 years ago to pass the time. On stage, Tagaq herself performs a solo version, singing both the call and response parts; every performance is improvised, so no two shows are alike. "The music. I get kind of hypnotized by it. And it just becomes its own creature."
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