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Tanya Tagaq - Ivan Otis / Courtesy of the artist

Languages of the world : Tanya Tagaq, Inuit throat singer, “I am Inuk, you can’t have my tongue”

In her new album Tongues which came out in January 2022, the Inuit throat singer and composer Tanya Tagaq addresses and explores the experience of the Indigenous peoples of Canada. This powerful message is notably achieved through her use of traditional Inuit throat singing (katajjac) as well as lyrics in both Inuit and English. Indeed, language appears to take an important role in this album, particularly in the eponymous single Tongues which directly speaks of the theft of Indigenous peoples’ voices and languages through, among others, the Canadian residential schools.

Tanya Tagaq - Tongues

Her use of throat singing in her music is a way for her to reclaim her identity as an Inuit woman as well as to attempt to repair the damage done to the cultural practices of her people. In the single Tongues, her message is clear: the Inuit culture and language have survived, as is evident through the English and Inuit lyrics incorporated into the throat singing sequences: “They tried to take our tongues / We lost our language / And we didn’t / Inuuvunga (I am an Inuk) / (…) // Inuuvunga // You can’t have my tongue”.

Tanya Tagaq - Colonizer

Themes of rage, pain, and survival are ever-present throughout the album. Tanya Tagaq is not afraid of directly addressing difficult topics and expressing the rage and the pain that exist within her experience as an Inuit woman in Canada. In the rather entrancing song Colonizer” this pent-up rage is shown through her use of contrast and rightfully accusatory lyrics: “You colonizer / Oh you’re guilty”.

Tongues is a meticulously constructed album that uses the traditional Inuit practice of throat singing mixed in with English and Inuit lyrics so as to truly explore and expose the violence of the colonization of Indigenous peoples, as well as the rage and pain caused by such violence, both in the past and today. Tagaq has produced a beautiful, emotive and vindictive album, representative of Inuit culture as well as the Indigenous experience.


The Author : Victoire Mazauric is currently studying at Sciences Po Campus de Reims, France and attending the class “Languages of the world” with professor Alejandro Abbud Torres Torija.

This article is a result of a collaborative project between #AuxSons and Alejandro Abbud Torres Torija, lecturer at Sciences Po Paris Campus Reims, and regular contributor to #AuxSons. As part of the class “Languages of the world”, international students from Sciences Po Paris Campus Reims prepared articles reflecting these themes. 

photo : Tanya Tagaq - © Ivan Otis / Courtesy of the artist


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