Tanya Tagaq TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, Ottawa ON, June 28

Tanya Tagaq TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, Ottawa ON, June 28
Photo: Kamara Morozuk
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For the 2018 edition of the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, organizers invited a select number of artists from the Circumpolar North to play the festival. On Thursday night, they brought in Tanya Tagaq, one of the most distinctive artists to emerge from the region, let alone the country, in the past two decades.
 
A master improviser, no two shows the Inuk throat singer performs with her band — violinist/sound manipulator Jesse Zubot, and multi-instrumentalist/drummer Jean Martin — are the same.
 
"People say it's super sexual, probably because they're sexually repressed," Tagaq told Exclaim! back in 2016. "People say it's angry because they're angry. People say it's creepy, because they're easily creeped-out. It's a straight, flat commentary on existence."
 
True, Tagaq is both a blank canvas and a gladiator on stage, seemingly risking life and limb with her acrobatic vocals and bold body contortions, shaking hibernating thoughts awake for the people who stay (which isn't always everyone — before the show began, Tagaq pointed out the venue's single exit for people who couldn't last all the way through her set).
 
But, with Canada's bogus-ass 151st birthday only a few days away, her Thursday night performance in the nation's capital felt especially pointed and direct, as she sang/softly spoke/screamed about colonization, capitalism and retribution.
 
That's just what she conveyed in English. The rest of the time, Tagaq's performance felt like you were spending the evening with someone who was both a sparring partner and spiritual teacher, making your capillaries pulse with blood one second, while offering up access to your brain's default mode network the next.
 
Early on in the night, Tagaq asked audience members to refrain from posting photos and videos of the night's performance during the show. Her reason: something special happens when everyone is in the moment, feeding off one another in a live setting.
 
She isn't the first person to make that kind of request, but she's definitely one worth putting your cellphone down for.