It was David Harrington, leader of the Kronos Quartet, who introduced me to Inuit throat singing. Specifically, to katajjaq – an animalistic, rhythmic form of antiphonal vocalizing native to the Arctic land mass northwest of the Hudson Bay in Canada. ‘Tanya Tagaq is the only artist alive who can follow Kimmo Pohjonen,’ said Harrington of the leading international exponent of the art, a musician who has made katajjaq into a solo pursuit, ‘and Kimmo Pohjonen is what you get when you cross James Brown and Jimi Hendrix,’ he added for good measure about the accordion player from Finland.
A song of one’s own
American composer Caroline Shaw drew criticism because her award-winning work Partita for 8 Voices, according to singer Tanya Tagaq, profited on Inuit throat singing but failed to credit an endangered music culture. Cultural appropriation is very much a socio-economic issue.