See Tanya ‘Tagaq’ Gillis & Celina Kalluk in:
Tanya and her cousin Celina are Inuit women from the remote Arctic regions of Canada, who perform a unique style of traditional throat singing.
Tanya ‘Tagaq’ Gillis was born and raised in the remote Inuit community of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, where she had only passing exposure to throat singing. She left home for the city at the age of 15 to study visual arts but during her final year of art school she became increasingly homesick, and began teaching herself throat singing from tapes her mother sent her as a way of re-connecting with the Inuit culture she had left behind.
As Inuit throat singing is traditionally performed by two women — and Tagaq had no Inuk partner to sing with — she had to re-invent throat singing as a solo form.
In 2000, Tagaq attended the Great Northern Arts Festival in Canada to exhibit her paintings. When the organisers discovered they were short of performers, Tagaq agreed to sing. In the audience that day, filming the show, were two men from Iceland, who happened to be friends of Björk. Tagaq was invited to join Björk’s Vespertine tour in 2001. She appears on both of Björk’s subsequent recordings: Medulla, which pays tribute to the human voice; and the soundtrack to the film, Drawing Restraint 9. Björk also appears on Tagaq’s debut, Sinaa.
In contrast with her cousin, Celina Kalluk has stayed within the Inuit community, where she learnt throat singing from a relative. She recently moved from her hometown of Resolute in the high Arctic to Nunavut’s capital Iqaluit, where she works as a writer and illustrator. She is actively involved in the preservation of the Inuktitut language, has illustrated a number of Inuktitut schoolbooks and co-researched the children’s book Taiksumani, a modern story which incorporates Inuit legends.
She is currently working on a film based on the Inuit legend of Mahaha — the ‘tickle monster’.
→ Tanya and Celina laugh their way through a discussion of throat singing and contemporary arctic life in the extended video interview.
Visit the Tagaq web site