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[ATTENDED: April 13, 2017] Tanya Tagaq performs Nanook of the North

No use burying the lead: I just witnessed something singular.  Something unique and unforgettable.  Tanya Tagaq is a magical performer and I consider myself lucky to have seen her (even if I wasn’t always looking at her). And to have heard her incredible band live.

Tagaq is an Upik performer who incorporates throat singing into her music.  And when she performs, her entire body is possessed by the music. She becomes animalistic, both low and growling as well as high and soaring.

Nanook of the North is considered the first documentary film.  Filmed in 1920 by Robert J. Flaherty, it depicts Nanook, a “happy Eskimo,” and his family as they go about their lives.   For many people it was their first and only exposure to Native culture.  This film has been praised for its documentary techniques, but ridiculed for its patronizing attitude and for fudging reality.

I learned last night that part of the reason some of it was fudged was because his original film was destroyed in a fire and he returned to get more footage–often recreating what happened the first time.  [Some Wikipedia details shed some light on his good intentions and controversies–see bottom of the post for a few details].

I first watched Nanook of the North about 20 years ago in a college film class.  It was fine–less boring than I imagined, with some interesting moments, but not exactly gripping after 80 years of filmmaking.  But with Tagaq’s new soundtrack, the film took on an amazing and powerful component which added intensity, drama and tension to this film. (more…)

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