Long before Justin Trudeau’s team even began planning for his swearing in ceremony, Tanya Tagaq changed the conversation around Inuit throat singing for indigenous and non-indigenous people alike. For one thing, Tagaq performs it alone rather than as part of a duo. For another, she throat sings while covering Pixies. Like A Tribe Called Red, Tagaq embeds contemporary cultural references into her own traditions, creating a new context for both to exist in.
Inuit based throat singers Cynthia Pitsiulak and Charlotte Qamaniq are also part of this conversation. Working together as Silla, the duo lays down their hypnotic, hyper-active vocal exchanges amongst the minimalist electronic beats of Ottawa based producer and DJ Rise Ashen. As Silla and Rise, the trio breathes new life and fresh air into house music’s stale, staid scene, reconnecting the synthetic beats and blips of the nightclub scene to humanity through the juxtaposition of Pitsiulak and Qamaniq’s syncopated interplay. Their performance is the heartbeat at the core of Debut, the trio’s name-your-price, free download LP released earlier this year.
Amidst the laid back, lounge-like vibe of some tracks, there’s an immediate sense that Silla + Rise want to be more than just background music for dimly-lit, downtown fashion boutiques and hipster artisanal barbeques. By its very nature, throat singers deliver a tension-filled, push-pull performance, and Pitsiulak and Qamaniq (who started performing together as Tumivut before becoming Silla) capture the playful spirit of the tradition while adding sleek, seductive nuances to their performance that dances in perfect synchronicity to Ashen’s production work.
Debut is more than just the first footsteps of a new musical collaboration; it is a new branch on an ever-diversifying musical tree that’s taken root, already bearing delicious, delectable, delightful fruit.