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Study Up: Tanya Tagaq Teaches You to Throat Sing

tanya tagaqPhoto: Tanya Tagaq. By Ivan Otis.

“Nobody, anywhere, sounds like she does,” said the Globe and Mail of Tanya Tagaq, who performs at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre on February 2, 2016.

Tagaq has received many awards, but one of our favorites is Rolling Stone magazine’s “Best Scream” award for her performance at Bonnaroo festival. Her Ann Arbor performance features the Inuit throat singer accompanying a screening of Nanook of the North (1922) with a live score.

How to throat sing

Throat singers produce more than one pitch at a time through the positioning of the lips, tongue, larynx, and jaw. Though unfamiliar to most Western ears, throat singing is part of a number of global musical traditions including those of central Asia, South Africa,
and northern Canada. Inuit throat singing originated as a way for women to entertain themselves and engage in friendly competition while men were away hunting. Two women face one another closely and improvise musical patterns; the first one to laugh or run out of breath loses.

Watch this video to learn more about Inuit throat singing in its traditional form:

In this video, Tanya Tagaq explains the vocal processes used to create the basic sonic building blocks of Inuit throat singing. She usually tells her students to “spend one year trying to sound like their dog.”

Videos excerpted from UMS Learning Guide for Tanya Tagaq.

Tanya Tagaq performs at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre on February 2, 2016.