Saturday, April 02, 2011
We'd have a fabulous garden by now
Joanna Newsom alternated between piano and harp. She is clearly super talented, though I can't quite decide if I like her voice. I'd heard some of her songs before, but definitely appreciated her better live. The lady was a good sport, she was attacked by locusts as they swarmed the stage at twilight. She had to get a helper to swat them away, and she made a deal with the audience that if she "swallowed a bug bigger than an Australian $2 coin" she was outta there!
And then there was Tanya Tagaq, an Inuit throat singer from Canada. Because I arrived late at the festival this year, the others had already heard a bit of her music and I got the impression it was pretty difficult to listen to. Although there are always acts that I find it really easy to like, I do also try to take some of these opportunities to experience something new and maybe difficult. I ended up seeing Tagaq's Sunday night set alone, and found it interesting but not really engaging - although I was very impressed by the violinist, who didn't seem to stop playing for the whole hour.
The next day we happened upon Tagaq's workshop (a question and answer session plus some performing). We decided to sit down for a minute and were totally drawn in. She was just so engaging and charming, talking about her singing and her life, as well as the community she comes from and the common experience of her people and the aboriginal people of this country in coming into contact with colonial powers, and having their children taken away 'for their own good'.
Tagaq described traditional Inuit throat singing as kind of a fun, competitive game where two women sing into each others mouths. She herself is self-taught, inventing her own solo, improvisational style. The singing she did during the workshop session was more or less part of the same music she had performed the night before, but it just sounded so much better. She did say that she finds her performances very variable - it seems to be a highly personal and emotional form of expression. I suspect the audience was a lot more engaged during the workshop than the show the night before, and her performance reflected that. Or else my ears and brain just liked it better because I knew more about where she was coming from. And I don't really mind which it was.