It’s been a whirlwind past few years for Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq. After having quietly released three studio efforts between 2005 and 2011, the likes of which saw her receive Juno Award nominations and walk away the winner of multiple Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, Tagaq caught what was arguably one of the most significant breaks of her career in 2014.
That year, Animism, her fourth studio effort, was awarded Canada’s Polaris Music Prize, an honour that is based solely upon artistic merit as opposed to sales. During the course of the show, Tagaq’s medley performance of two tracks from Animism, “Uja” and “Umingamak,” merited a well-earned buzz as the dynamic vocalist showcased her remarkable range of abilities, running the gamut from a deep-throated growl to a lullaby-worthy voice in the intense 10 minutes she was on stage.
While the $30,000 cash prize associated with winning Polaris certainly didn’t hurt, the doors that the award helped open for the artist following the award win were numerous.
In addition to being named Aboriginal Album of the Year at the 2015 Juno Awards, critics with the New York Times and The Guardian in the U.K. heaped overdue praise upon the artist, with the latter writer going so far to say that Icelandic artist Bjork “looks tame” compared to Tagaq’s unique vocal abilities.
“For a good decade, it felt to me as though the people that get up and go to their 9 to 5 jobs at the bank had their lives together,” Tagaq says in advance of her show at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre tonight.
Asked if winning the Polaris Prize significantly changed her life, she says there remains many misconceptions about how financially abundant a musician’s life can be.
“I was scraping by before the award win, and there honestly hasn’t been that big of a change since. I think it’s pretty standard for being a musician in Canada. People tend to think it’s a glamourous life, but the fact is, it’s still a job.”
That job just happens to come with additional perks these days. This coming Friday will see the release of Retribution, her latest studio effort. Like its predecessor, violinist Jesse Zubot produced the album, which also boasts a collaboration with Canadian hip hop artist Shad.
Not surprisingly, Retribution ratchets up the intensity that was so prevalent on Animism. The album culminates with Tagaq’s passionate cover of the Nirvana song “Rape Me,” a state of the union address that couldn’t have come at a better time, given the fact the Canadian government is finally moving ahead with a national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.
“I’ve always had a strong sense of pride in my culture,” Tagaq says. “Retribution reflects that accordingly.”
Asked if she is anxious for the release of the record or whether she felt as though she had to live up to others’ expectations in light of her Polaris win, Tagaq insists the making of her new album was not dissimilar to each of her previous efforts.
“I’ve always been a live in the moment kind of person. Thinking about the release of the record isn’t all that exciting to me now, but once release day arrives, I’m definitely going to allow myself to bask in what I’ve accomplished with this new album,” she says.
“That being said, I feel the exact same way about Retribution as I did about Animism: My relationship with music is mine. I’ve never been terribly concerned with what others think. People tuning in or enjoying what I am creating is just a wonderful side effect of what I do.”
What: Tanya Tagaq
When: Wednesday Oct. 19, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capitol Theatre, 811 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $32 for members / $35 for non-members. Advance tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone (506) 856-4379 and online at capitol.nb.ca.