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First Play Live: Tanya Tagaq, Retribution

Reuben Maan

Tanya Tagaq's new album, Retribution, will be released on Oct. 21. This is the follow-up album to Tagaq's Polaris Prize-winning Animism and once again she is working with the heavyweight duo of violinist/producer Jesse Zubot and drummer Jean Martin. She also collaborates with Shad on the first single from the album, "Centre," as well as some other great musicians.

For Tagaq's First Play Live session, she chose to record in the Feheley Fine Arts gallery in downtown Toronto. Feheley features contemporary Inuit art from the Canadian Arctic and during Tagaq's performance it was filled with many colourful wall-hangings and sculptures. The main room is featured in the videos and you can see a large composition by Lizabeth Keyoaya that hangs behind the band, as well as three of Tagaq's own paintings hanging on another wall.

While preparing for the shoot, Tagaq spotted a beautifully beaded amautiq, that she asked to wear. The gallery quickly contacted the owner who happily obliged and moments later Tagaq was colourfully adorned in a traditional woman's parka. Finding the perfect attire for the performance appeared serendipitous, but moments like these seem common for Tagaq. She, Zubot and Martin are so adept at reading and responding to each other and their environment that you can understand why they're such brilliant improvisers.

When it was time to record, Shad jumped in for a lively performance of "Centre." Then Tagaq, Zubot and Martin kicked into a vigorous rendition of "Retribution," the title track, which flowed into 10 more minutes of spirited improvisation.

The dominant theme of of the album is rape — in many different forms, so obviously the music is emotionally intense, politically powerful and aggressive. But there is also a lot of tenderness. The performances are completely captivating. Watch the videos here:

Special thanks to Feheley Fine Arts for opening their gallery to us.

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