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Tanya Tagaq, 'Tongues'

To witness Tanya Tagaq in person can be a brave, even life-changing event. The mind-bending performance she gave at the Kennedy Center in 2019 is forever seared into my psyche. Tagaq is from a small community in the high Arctic, 300 miles from the magnetic North Pole, and her singular style of improvised vocalizing is rooted in Inuit throat singing.

Tongues, her new album (produced by Saul Williams and mixed by Gonjasufi) to be released early next year, is an explicit, potent musical manifesto, demanding to repossess what colonization has stolen from her culture. "They tried to take our tongues," she murmurs in the title track, "I don't want your shame." Integrated with a palette of industrial instrumental textures, Tagaq's spoken voice is pleasant but insistent. Her convulsive respirations are positively fearsome. As she told that Washington audience, "You don't have seat belts, but buckle them in your head."

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Tom Huizenga
Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.