People should wear and eat seal as much as possible
September 23, 2014 4:07 PM   Subscribe

Tanya Tagaq, an Inuk throat singer, has won the 2014 Polaris Prize for her album Animism. The Polaris goes to the best Canadian album of the year based on "artistic merit without regard to genre, sales history or label affiliation". Her acceptance speech was a little more controversial than usual for the Polaris, with Tagaq saying "People should wear and eat seal as much as possible" and "Fuck PETA." Her performance. Her acceptance speech.
posted by GuyZero (92 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
 
For whatever reason the links don't play at the right time point with the embedded player but they work if you click through. And feel free to watch all three hours of the Polaris performances if you feel like it.
posted by GuyZero at 4:09 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I bought a "Seal is the New Black" shirt at the national arctic show here a while back. There was also the short but awesome Sealfie movement.
posted by aclevername at 4:25 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Leave it to a Canadian to say 'Fuck PETA' while sounding soft-spoken and still polite.

It's honestly not a very controversial statement to say 'Fuck PETA'; most of the world is meat-eating and doesn't share PETA's agenda.

That being said, following the globeandmail link, it appears as if Tanya and PETA are more aligned than in conflict.
Asked to respond to Tagaq’s comments, PETA issued the following statement: “PETA was surprised by Tanya’s ill-informed rant because we’ve never campaigned against the indigenous hunt,” said Dan Matthews, a vice-president of the organization. “Our fight is – and always has been – against the East Coast commercial slaughter, which is run by white people who bilk Canadians for millions in tax dollars in order to prop up the non-existent seal trade.”
If there were no restrictions on seal hunting, the indigenous population probably wouldn't have any seals to hunt.

Thus her statements allowed PETA to articulate it's nuanced position on the matter - something that it doesn't successfully convey in the popular press.
posted by el io at 4:25 PM on September 23, 2014 [30 favorites]


A riveting and completely surprising performance.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:30 PM on September 23, 2014


First peoples hunting and wearing seal? Sure, fine.

Brooklyn hipsters making seal fur the next "flower beards"-type trend? I'm gonna take a pass on that.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 4:30 PM on September 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


PETA's response was in large part quite a shitty ad hominem. Not a fan of how they handled that at all.

If there were no restrictions on seal hunting, the indigenous population probably wouldn't have any seals to hunt.

I took her comments to include the commercial hunt as well. She spoke to poverty in Newfoundland when asked about the commercial hunt.
posted by Hoopo at 4:30 PM on September 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


Brilliant, cheers.
posted by dng at 4:31 PM on September 23, 2014


I saw her perform a live soundtrack for Nanuk of the North with her ensemble, it was excellent.
posted by idiopath at 4:31 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, if we are to wear and eat as much seal as possible, we'll need that commercial hunt. So I think she is opposing PETA's position.
posted by thelonius at 4:31 PM on September 23, 2014


Well their "nuanced" position still sucks. The east coast seal industry is also a way of life that keeps food on the table and income in the pockets of many. As a canadian tax payer I am more than fine with how they are "bilking" me.
posted by aclevername at 4:32 PM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Man this is awesome, more power to her. Fur is an integral part of Inuit culture, and misguided attempts to ban fur have massive negative effects on the cultures of the Arctic. I also think that the commercial hunt in Newfoundland and Labrador should be supported as well.
posted by Nevin at 4:33 PM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


PETA does some good things, especially doing under cover video of animal abuse.

It's sad that some of their positions are tone deaf and some wacko's are given voice to the media.
posted by uraniumwilly at 4:33 PM on September 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


"The east coast seal industry is also a way of life that keeps food on the table and income in the pockets of many."

As is the coal industry to coal-producing parts of the world. As is the prison industry in rural communities that host prisons. I'm not stating that the seal industry is inherently bad (or worse than other industries), merely 'this thing we do supports our communities' isn't a great defense of XYZ thing.
posted by el io at 4:38 PM on September 23, 2014 [83 favorites]


We don't need seals; otters have equally luxurious fur and leaner meat and are much more conveniently located (there are some on the coast just a few miles from me).

yes, I have registered the trademark "THE OTTER RED MEAT®".
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:41 PM on September 23, 2014 [51 favorites]


Old ways still die hard I guess. At least that seems to be a truly universal human trait.

Slave trade made people money and kept food on people's tables, too. Economic justifications only go so far.

But whatever. Not like we don't do worse to chickens and cows in the US.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:42 PM on September 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


Fur is an integral part of Inuit culture

What does something being an "integral part" of a culture have to do with whether it's a good or bad idea to do bludgeon defenceless animals to death on a commercial, industrial scale?
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:42 PM on September 23, 2014 [25 favorites]


merely 'this thing we do supports our communities' isn't a great defense of XYZ thing.

I'd say then that comparing it to the prison industry, coal plants, and (as someone else has pointed out) slavery probably isn't a very good rhetorical tactic then. Why not compare it to, you know, another hunt? Or fisheries? Of equal sustainability?
posted by Hoopo at 4:44 PM on September 23, 2014 [9 favorites]


Hey, even leaving aside the seal question, how about Fuck PETA for their lengthy litany of other sins? We can start with their disgusting appropriation of Holocaust imagery and go down the list from there.

More power to Tagaq.
posted by Itaxpica at 4:45 PM on September 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


What does something being an "integral part" of a culture have to do with whether it's a good or bad idea to do bludgeon defenceless animals to death on a commercial, industrial scale?

"My moral views supersede your culture and history" is the drumbeat of pretty much every colonialist movement since the dawn of time. Probably not a great side to align yourself with.
posted by Itaxpica at 4:47 PM on September 23, 2014 [23 favorites]


OK. Her cover of the Pixies' Caribou that opens the album Animism is fucking amazing. When she shrieks REPENT....
posted by idiopath at 4:52 PM on September 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


What does something being an "integral part" of a culture have to do with whether it's a good or bad idea to do bludgeon defenceless animals to death on a commercial, industrial scale?

I personally have a problem with the industrial portion of it. The indigenous people harvesting with a sustained yield approach, and a traditional seeming religious reverence for the creature is something I do not have a problem with.
posted by uraniumwilly at 4:52 PM on September 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm sure glad we're mostly talking about the music here
posted by philip-random at 4:53 PM on September 23, 2014 [15 favorites]


Well, to be fair, the OP kind of frames the story as not being so much about the music as about hating on PETA and the word "fuck," so it's not obvious the music is the main draw for the post...
posted by saulgoodman at 5:03 PM on September 23, 2014 [12 favorites]


"My moral views supersede your culture and history" is the drumbeat of pretty much every colonialist movement since the dawn of time.

Exactly. And it so rare for indigenous people who live at the very end the world, literally, to really get to be heard about anything at all. She makes me proud to be a Canadian; she makes me proud of what Canadians could be. We need more people like her.
posted by Nevin at 5:03 PM on September 23, 2014 [18 favorites]


I've been told that the Seal population is fairly robust. But that's probably what they muttered about the Cod back in the day. 22 years later and the stocks have never recovered.

Now Newfoundlanders are dependent on oil jobs. While the ocean acidifies, and rises.
posted by anthill at 5:05 PM on September 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


As is the coal industry to coal-producing parts of the world... merely 'this thing we do supports our communities' isn't a great defense of XYZ thing.

It strikes me as a pretty important thing to consider about [resource extraction industry of choice]. actually. You don't have to accept that [resource extraction] ought to continue unabated to acknowledge that such activity provides a pretty good living to a lot of people who otherwise wouldn't have much at all in this post-industrial age. As an environmentalist one would do well to make it clear what one offers in exchange.
posted by atoxyl at 5:09 PM on September 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


What does something being an "integral part" of a culture have to do with whether it's a good or bad idea to do bludgeon defenceless animals to death on a commercial, industrial scale?

90% of sealers on the ice floes of the Front (east of Newfoundland), where the majority of the hunt occurs, use firearms. Sealers in the Magdelen Islands (Gulf of St. Lawrence) and on Quebec's Lower North Shore traditionally use clubs or hakapiks.

As for the music, I hadn't heard Tanya Tagaq before the Polaris gala last night, but here performance was stunning.
posted by Dismantled King at 5:12 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Brooklyn hipsters making seal fur the next "flower beards"-type trend? I'm gonna take a pass on that.

I didn't realize the killing of threatened/endangered wildlife was something we were blaming on hipsters now. Thanks for keeping me informed of the trends!
posted by item at 5:13 PM on September 23, 2014 [11 favorites]


I would never seek to impose my morality on anyone else, let alone an entire population, but I still suspect the world would be no worse off for having less killing and cruelty in it, period. But then, I still eat the traditional factory farmed chicken of my people, so I can do no more than scrawl my irrelevant little opinion in the margins of this particular page of the book of life. Indigenous people are still just people though, historical circumstances notwithstanding. All people are capable of doing the wrong things. It starts to feel a little orientalist to imply there's something special about any particular group's customs when, in places like the US, we're constantly forced to abandon and reinvent our own customs and ways of living due to market forces and technological developments we evidently have no control over.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:21 PM on September 23, 2014 [23 favorites]


I didn't realize the killing of threatened/endangered wildlife was something we were blaming on hipsters now. Thanks for keeping me informed of the trends!

In the interest of keeping you informed, I was paraphrasing Tagaq's acceptance speech, which is linked in the FPP.

The full quote, from around 3:50 in the video: "If hipsters can make flower beards in, then you can do it with seal! C'mon guys!"
posted by evidenceofabsence at 5:28 PM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


I just want to say that this is what the Polaris Prize is for. Amazing music that a lot of people might not hear otherwise.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:29 PM on September 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


I didn't realize the killing of threatened/endangered wildlife was something we were blaming on hipsters now.

the current axis of evil is comprised of hipsters and millennials obvsly
posted by poffin boffin at 5:30 PM on September 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


The argument that an indigenous hunt is OK but a commercial hunt is not OK is actually kind of a quietly racist argument, in that it assumes that indigenous people do not need or want jobs or money, an assumption which only exacerbates the desperate poverty that exists in northern communities. A commercial hunt helps address that poverty. As Tagaq herself says in an interview with CBC's As It Happens, "It shouldn't be inconceivable that an indigenous group of people could thrive off their own sustainable natural resources. I think that it's ridiculous and bullying... to be against sealing is basically taking food out of Inuit kids' mouths. We were doing well financially and breaking free from the federal government before people started all these ridiculous bans... and just the hypocrisy of there being giant slaughterhouses everywhere... but you're gonna go out to your wit's end over some seals?"

I've been told that the Seal population is fairly robust. But that's probably what they muttered about the Cod back in the day

You know, you could actually research that statement a bit, especially as (due to its controversial nature) the seal population and the seal hunt are extensively studied and closely monitored. The seal herd around Newfoundland is currently about triple the size it was thirty years ago. There are at least 12 seals in the waters off Newfoundland for every person living on the island of Newfoundland. The species of seal being hunted is not endangered. It is not threatened. It is categorized as being of Least Concern. By any metric, the commercial seal hunt is more humane and more ecologically sound than mainstream agricultural practices carried out elsewhere in North America.
posted by erlking at 5:31 PM on September 23, 2014 [35 favorites]


I didn't realize killing of threatened/endangered wildlife was something we were blaming on hipsters now.

FTFY. None of the species in question are threatened or endangered.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:31 PM on September 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


The seal herd around Newfoundland is currently about triple the size it was thirty years ago. There are at least 12 seals in the waters off Newfoundland for every person living on the island of Newfoundland.

They must've eaten all of the cod!
posted by Apocryphon at 5:35 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


"The argument that an indigenous hunt is OK but a commercial hunt is not OK is actually kind of a quietly racist argument, in that it assumes that indigenous people do not need or want jobs or money, an assumption which only exacerbates the desperate poverty that exists in northern communities. "

In many places in the US there is a legal obligation to allow indigenous people to continue to have access to their hunting grounds and to practice their hunting traditions. Folks continue to litigate to ensure these treaties are continued to be honored. I don't know what the treaty obligations are in Canada, but this press release implies there are treaty issues at play in continuing to allow indigenous people to hunt seals.

The hunts may or may not be "OK", but there may be a legal obligation to allow them to continue (I mean, it's also a north american tradition to only honor treaties when it's convenient, but that isn't a very good legal argument).
posted by el io at 5:38 PM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Apocryphon, a former fisheries minister said much the same thing. I'm not convinced that a seal cull would help cod stocks in any meaningful way, but it's unlikely to hurt them.
posted by peppermind at 5:39 PM on September 23, 2014


And as it's already getting lost in the hubbub: Animism is an astonishing artistic achievement, like nothing else I've heard. It's inspiring how Tagaq blends avant and experimental musicianship with traditional vocal practices. There's also elements of death metal, electronic music, jazz, classical, punk - all kinds of things - weaving in and out. She is an awesome vocalist, in the truest sense of the word "awesome." I was extremely lucky to see her perform her response/revised soundtrack to Nanook of the North earlier this year and it is difficult to put into words the raw power this woman channels. Even seeing a video of a performance does not do the experience justice.

Also, a roll of more than 1200 missing and murdered Aboriginal women was projected behind Tagaq during her Polaris performance, and Animism is dedicated to Loretta Saunders, a murdered Inuk graduate student who was writing about murdered and missing aboriginal women. I actually think this is more important than the issue of the seal hunt. The legacy of colonialism in this country is still literally killing aboriginal people by the thousands. As Tagaq put it in this interview:

A lot of my music career has been protest music without words, because it’s very difficult to discuss these issues in Canada, because you bring up native rights and people just roll their eyes and put on their party pow wow headdress or whatever. It’s really difficult to get through the clouded mentality. It’s like a smog all over Canada, it’s still so fresh what’s happened, we’re still riding on the back of the bus, it’s still a big issue.

I would like that to not get placed by the discursive wayside.
posted by erlking at 5:40 PM on September 23, 2014 [52 favorites]


I don't know what the treaty obligations are in Canada, but this press release implies there are treaty issues at play in continuing to allow indigenous people to hunt seals.


In Canada, that can vary depending on the region, and whether it is covered by pre-1763 treaties, the Robinson Treaties, the Numbered Treaties; or whether it is former Hudson's Bay Company land, or non-treaty land currently under land claim (such as a lot of B.C.).
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:47 PM on September 23, 2014


She reminds me a bit of another outspoken Arctic aboriginal musician (from another part of the world) -- Mari Boine Persen
posted by Nerd of the North at 5:49 PM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


FTFY. None of the species in question are threatened or endangered.

My mistake. At least we can still blame it on Brooklyn hipsters, the scourge of wildlife everywhere on this planet.
posted by item at 5:50 PM on September 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


I just want to say that this is what the Polaris Prize is for. Amazing music that a lot of people might not hear otherwise.

Yes, this this this.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:53 PM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Without commentary on any other social issues, when humans "....eat as much [blank] as possible," it doesn't have a really great track record for biodiversity on this planet.
posted by Existential Dread at 6:18 PM on September 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


I dunno, isn't eating as much jellyfish as possible how we are going to save the oceans?
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 6:23 PM on September 23, 2014


At least she didn't say to listen to as much Seal as possible.
posted by michaelh at 6:24 PM on September 23, 2014 [14 favorites]


I really like the music from the album trailer. Anybody got a few more links to the music on offer? Or point us to where it is in the links if there's more there I'm missing (I'll check out the performance one, but live recordings don't usually do it for me.)
posted by saulgoodman at 6:26 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Her acceptance speech was a little more controversial than usual for the Polaris

Ummm, maybe you missed Godpseed You! Black Emperor's acceptance statement last year?

Stay weird, Polaris.
posted by dry white toast at 6:34 PM on September 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


Wow. I had not heard of her, and now I am in awe of her music.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:39 PM on September 23, 2014


Anybody got a few more links to the music on offer?

There's this intense cover of The Pixie's Caribou (which is on Animism) on her record company's official soundcloud: REPENT! REPENT!

The electronic press kit (nb: not the trailer) for Animism features more music from the album, as well as Tanya talking about her compositional practices, among other things : "I'm trying to wake people up."
posted by erlking at 7:07 PM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


At least we can still blame it on Brooklyn hipsters, the scourge of wildlife everywhere on this planet.

What are you talking about? Do you even know?
posted by Sys Rq at 7:17 PM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Canadian Seal Hunt.

Not safe for squeamish--graphic pictures bludgeoned seals.
posted by bukvich at 7:23 PM on September 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


It feels weird that Advocacy for Animals is trading on the name/dispassionate cred of the Encyclopaedia Britannica without being linked to them.

Here is a slightly more scholarly approach, although I can't vouch for it.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:31 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well the link bukvich posted is a bundle of manipulative propaganda. The abbatoirs and slaugherhouses outside our cities are also "not safe for squeamish." At least the seals are wild, free, organic, etc., and the hunt gives strength and stability to marginalized, impoverished, and subaltern communities that house unique cultures that are in danger of becoming extinct.
posted by erlking at 7:33 PM on September 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


I personally have a problem with the industrial portion of it. The indigenous people harvesting with a sustained yield approach, and a traditional seeming religious reverence for the creature is something I do not have a problem with.

Keep 'em poor and isolated. Meh. Indigenous people should do whatever the fuck they want to on their land. Building an industry that could sustain northern communities would be fantastic. (Or, you know, what erkling and Tagaq herself said more eloquently.)

As for Tanya Tagaq, she's a fucking miracle. I saw her perform outdoors to an audience of about 50 on PEI this summer and it blew my mind.
posted by looli at 7:39 PM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


In PETA's defense, they are also against abbatoirs and slaughterhouses inside or outside of our cities.

But yeah, it seems pretty hypocritical of an omnivore like me to be against seal hunting based only on the vague notion that seals are cute and I don't eat them.
posted by muddgirl at 7:40 PM on September 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


The argument that an indigenous hunt is OK but a commercial hunt is not OK is actually kind of a quietly racist argument

Huh? I don't think it's "racist" to say that a practice might be more OK when done sustainably in the same way it's been done for generations, than when done on an industrialized scale.

It's the difference between a few people hunting ducks for sport vs. market hunters with cannons driving them to extinction, to cite one particularly egregious historical example. We've managed to come back to a place today that allows the former but not the latter pretty well.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:40 PM on September 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


Holy shit, the album is incredible.
posted by Sokka shot first at 7:44 PM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


I heard a bit of her interview on Q this morning. I had no idea that she was a throat singer so when they played a clip of her music I kept waiting for the vocals. I'll have to give her stuff a more focused listen.

As far as the whole seal thing goes. I would rather the commercial hunt be reduced, but can understand that it provides some pretty tangible benefits to the sealing communities with little downside apart from the cruelty angle. I'd also wager there's less cruelty in the lives of these seals then in the lives of most cattle in North America.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:52 PM on September 23, 2014


But the commercial hunt as it has existed in the last 25 years is demonstrably sustainable. Seal populations are large and growing larger. And indigenous communities are in desperate need not just of locally-sourced food to offset the incredibly expensive and unhealthy food that's flown in from thousands of km away, but also economic opportunities to relieve systemic and extreme poverty. I said it was racist because there is an old stereotype of the noble savage untouched by the desire or need for filthy lucre; this stereotype is leveraged to keep these communities isolated and poor. Indigenous people have a right to profit from their resources.

Once again, Tagaq's words: "It shouldn't be inconceivable that an indigenous group of people could thrive off their own sustainable natural resources.. . . To be against sealing is basically taking food out of Inuit kids' mouths. We were doing well financially and breaking free from the federal government before people started all these ridiculous bans."
posted by erlking at 7:55 PM on September 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


Thanks for explaining the scrolling list of names erlking. I saw that and thought maybe it was credits -- the names of the people singing in the accompanying choir (I didn't pay enough attention to realize there were so many names).

And yeah, that performance was really something. I don't know that I'd find it enjoyable to sit and listen to while I'm puttering around or working, but I can appreciate how much raw emotion and human/animal spirit that comes out, even without words, somehow.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:14 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


isn't eating as much jellyfish as possible how we are going to save the oceans?

Have you tried jellyfish? If that's what it comes down to the oceans are definitely doomed
posted by Hoopo at 8:20 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


The whole thing about outsiders wanting to keep indigenous hunts small and ritualistic and quaint is part and parcel of the genocidal approach Europeans have had to indigenous peoples since time immemorial. It's a total Catch-22. There is rampant poverty in northern communities, which keeps people dependent on the federal government. If communities try to industrialize their traditional practices so that wealth can be created, government assistance dispensed with and a future secured, outsiders get up in arms about how what they are doing is not sustainable or traditional. If indigenous people instead continue a hunt that provides nothing but basic sustenance, then they are accused of lacking initiative and being lazy.

You can substitute oil or minerals for seal here. Indigenous people are only encouraged to be guardians of the land when it prevents them from exploiting natural resources themselves. When the government wants access to the land for fracking or deep water drilling, indigenous environmentalism is suddently considered criminal activity.
posted by looli at 8:22 PM on September 23, 2014 [21 favorites]


This is Tagaq doing a fascinating intro to the sounds of throat singing.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:51 PM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


First, reread erlking's comment; the political statement about the hundreds of missing and murdered First Nations women should (in my uneducated opinion) not be completely drowned out by the seal thing. And also everything about Tagaq's music.

Now, at the risk of dragging the conversation down into the mere territory of music: As usual, I think of Polaris as a list of multiple artists worth checking out; the diversity of the award is a strength, as they might say in Toronto. Although holy shit, Tagaq blew my goddamn mind. Anyway, here's the other shortlist nominees, and a couple of the longlist worth checking out too:

Rest of the shortlist:
Arcade Fire - Reflektor
Basia Bulat - Tall Tall Shadow
Mac DeMarco - Salad Days
Drake - Nothing Was the Same
Jessy Lanza - Pull My Hair Back
Owen Pallett - In Conflict
Shad - Flying Colours
Timber Timbre - Hot Dreams
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan - UZU

A couple from the longlist:
Austra - Olympia
Chad VanGaalen - Shrink Dust
Mounties - Thrash Rock Legacy
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 8:57 PM on September 23, 2014 [10 favorites]


the political statement about the hundreds of missing and murdered First Nations women should (in my uneducated opinion) not be completely drowned out by the seal thing. And also everything about Tagaq's music.

Only in Canada would eating seal be somehow more controversial than suggesting there was a problem with a hundreds of unsolved murders. I believe she works with No More Silence: "No More Silence is creating a community run database documenting violent deaths of Indigenous women/Two-Spirit and Trans in collaboration with Families of Sisters In Spirit, community partner The Native Youth Sexual Health Network and with the assistance of Dr. Janet Smylie (Métis) and Conrad Prince of the Well Living House at the Keenan Research Centre. "

Although this list is just 69 people at the moment, there are hundreds of missing women whose deaths have been basically ignored. jeather had a good post just last month: Enough is enough. Also, a previous post on Loretta Saunders. and The Highway of Tears.
posted by GuyZero at 9:14 PM on September 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


Heidi Klum is going to be pissed.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 9:27 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


As a Canadian and a vegetarian, I don't feel super great about the seal hunt, but I do prefer it to common chicken and pig farming practices.
posted by 256 at 9:29 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Back to the music: this is nothing like what most of us have thought of as throat singing, that is: producing overtones as high-pitched melodies while simultaneously singing the lower tones on which the higher overtones are based. This is the Tuvan/Mongolian etc. model.

Nevertheless, this is a totally new style of singing to me, and riveting.
posted by kozad at 9:33 PM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: Eating the traditional factory farmed chicken of its people.
posted by smidgen at 9:49 PM on September 23, 2014


"Only in Canada would eating seal be somehow more controversial than suggesting there was a problem with a hundreds of unsolved murders."

Other than the comment this musician had about the matter, I haven't heard anything about seal hunting since.... I was a kid and people made jokes about clubbing baby seals (which informs a lot of the discussion on the matter today, I would imagine).

I have heard about the deaths of indigenous women in Canada. Probably not as much as is appropriate, and I may not have heard about it if it weren't for Metafilter, but it is something I have some awareness of.

This conversation is occurring because of the platform that the musician was given, and what she did with it - this conversation would potentially be about those unsolved murders had she used her soap-box for that purpose.

That being said, this conversation has moved my level of knowledge on this matter to "yeah, don't club baby seals" to "huh, there are probably too many seals, and they don't really kill them like that these days, it might be appropriate to hull the herd; I hope the Chinese will start accepting Canadian seal meat soon." So her provocative remarks resulted in me educating myself (a bit) and changing my position on the matter. If she had brought up those murders my position would have gone from "yeah, they should investigate that and find the killers" to "yeah, they should investigate that and find the killers".
posted by el io at 10:08 PM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was raised in Labrador. Ate my fair share of seal, caribou, moose, and cod growing up. These days I'm an aging Toronto hipster, but I'm still utterly baffled by the moral panic over the seal hunt. It's good to see an aboriginal Canadian take a stand on something that should never have been an issue in the first place.
posted by tantrumthecat at 11:08 PM on September 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


Eat more seal?

Umm, no thanks, I've had seal, it's terrible.
posted by bumpkin at 11:57 PM on September 23, 2014


Newfoundlander here to confirm that seal is Pretty Gross.

I firmly believe that killing an animal for food or fur or whatever is ethically wrong if there are reasonable alternatives. Living in a part of the world where a cabbage costs $30 or something gets you a free pass to kill and eat whatever you want as far as I'm concerned, but the promotion of meat eating beyond actual necessity does not sit right with me. Traditions and ways-of-life are piss-poor reasons for perpetuating unnecessary suffering. And of course it's true that a hell of a lot of people are hypocritical in their views of the seal hunt vs. the broader animal-product industry, but what this points to is a conflict between our generalized discomfort with the idea of killing animals and the extent to which we've naturalized the idea of consuming them.

But anyway: Tagaq is amazing, Animism is amazing, and I couldn't be happier that she took the Polaris this year. That performance was incredibly powerful.
posted by tealsocks at 2:02 AM on September 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


If David Lynch dropped some acid and composed some music, and then I dropped some acid and listened to that music, it might be as awesome as this was.
posted by Quasimike at 3:00 AM on September 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that the opinions of Southerners, in general, and Canadians, in the specific, are of little consequence to most northern peoples.

It is merely an accident of geography that this person is considered Canadian, and I'm pretty sure northern people globally have little interest in maintaining this sort of junk statehood.

So, these comments should be seen in this light. They don't care about real concerns about global animal trade because, well, they don't care. It isn't of their concern, and the quicker we shut up about anything near or above the Arctic circle, the better.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:26 AM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


First of all, her music is amazing. It reminds me of the best of Diamanda Galas and early Björk, but very much its own thing. I am listening to her on Pandora right now and plan to buy her music soon.

Second, I agree with erlking that her activism about the ignored violence against First Nations women is way more interesting than her comments about seal hunting, and I wish this FPP had been framed that way -- or at least had better contextualized the seal statement.

The argument that an indigenous hunt is OK but a commercial hunt is not OK is actually kind of a quietly racist argument, in that it assumes that indigenous people do not need or want jobs or money, an assumption which only exacerbates the desperate poverty that exists in northern communities.

Here in this part of the US (so with a different legal and historical framework, but overlapping as well) there has been huge friction and frankly racist pushback as tribes have recently began to successfully assert their treaty rights including for commercial harvests (and also for other resource uses, from timber cutting to water rights). Whites have been exploiting those same resources for a bit more than 150 years (and considerably longer in the case of fur trapping, for example), but the minute the tribes start asserting a place in the commercial food chain you see total rednecks talking environmental. It's the same way that the woods are full of white hunters during deer and elk season, but the only complaints I hear are about subsistence hunting (and of course the tiny wolf population, which is about to be "controlled" by the state).

So yes, while I find seals as cute and cuddly as anyone, and I dislike the industrial approach to harvesting animals, I would hope that there are ways for the indigenous communities to control and profit from that harvest (as compared to having it controlled entirely by white-owned companies in the south, just another way to extract resources from those areas, leaving them poorer and worse off than before).

But again, the bottom line is that her music kicks ass and stands fully on its own merits, and I appreciate this FPP for bringing something new and amazing to my attention.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:29 AM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


If people aren't shocked enough, in this the 100th year since passenger pigeons were wiped off the planet due to rampant commercialisation, to know that commercialisation without regulation is unacceptable then og help every living thing apart from us.

Indigenous populations who have an ongoing history of providing for themselves and their communities from hunts are a completely different story.
posted by h00py at 6:05 AM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I like Animism a lot and I'm super pleased to see Tagaq win the prize (tho, I confess, I might've given the nod to Pallett's In Conflict simply because everything about it sounds like it was cooked up just for me). Fans of Animism might also like the work Sainkho Namtchylak, the Tuvan throat-singer, has done with Evan Parker and Ned Rothenberg.

Worth noting that the short list also included the band Timber Timbre who's song "Hot Dreams" (NSFW video here) is the most hilariously awful (Is that the point? Could be!) thing I've heard since Achy Breaky 2.

So, in conclusion, nice work Canada.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:32 AM on September 24, 2014


Thank you so much GuyZero for bringing this FPP and Tanya Tagaq to my attention. Absolutely fascinating and wonderful. Also, a +1 for Fuck PETA.
posted by Sophie1 at 6:56 AM on September 24, 2014


Eivør's Trøllabundin has similar sounding throat singing (at least to my ears).
posted by severiina at 6:58 AM on September 24, 2014


And as it's already getting lost in the hubbub: Animism is an astonishing artistic achievement, like nothing else I've heard. It's inspiring how Tagaq blends avant and experimental musicianship with traditional vocal practices. There's also elements of death metal, electronic music, jazz, classical, punk - all kinds of things - weaving in and out. She is an awesome vocalist, in the truest sense of the word "awesome." I was extremely lucky to see her perform her response/revised soundtrack to Nanook of the North earlier this year and it is difficult to put into words the raw power this woman channels. Even seeing a video of a performance does not do the experience justice.

I think my criteria for musical genius are those performers who not only use their instrument or genre of choice well, but do so in ways that stretch the conceptual boundaries of what it's capable of. As a teen, my conception of the string quartet dominated by Pachabel and Mozart was blown by watching Jean Jeanrenaud use the cello as percussion on an arrangement of Pärt's Fratres. Tagaq has that same quality of taking voice into a domain I could not imagine before hearing her, and seeing her perform to realize that she's not relying on overdubbing.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:43 AM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


If people aren't shocked enough, in this the 100th year since passenger pigeons were wiped off the planet due to rampant commercialisation, to know that commercialisation without regulation is unacceptable then og help every living thing apart from us.

The Canadian seal hunt is heavily regulated, monitored, studied, and scrutinized. Despite (some might argue because of) the hunt, the North Atlantic seal population is only increasing.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:32 AM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


That's one of the first and most shocking realizations I had when I first saw Tagaq live: those sounds on the recording aren't overdubbed or multiple takes, they're all produced at once. She has phenomenal technique and control over a wider array of sounds than I knew the human voice could even produce. The few rare moments when she sings in a 'typical' way are rendered so strange in comparison, as is hearing her quite quiet and plain speaking voice.
posted by erlking at 8:36 AM on September 24, 2014


"You can substitute oil or minerals for seal here. Indigenous people are only encouraged to be guardians of the land when it prevents them from exploiting natural resources themselves. When the government wants access to the land for fracking or deep water drilling, indigenous environmentalism is suddently considered criminal activity."

That's a good point, and demonstrates the disconnect: I'm also against the government and white people fracking or clear cutting or deep water drilling. That indigenous people also want to do those things does not mean that they should, even if they're poor and could make money at them, and indigenous environmentalism should not be criminal. Similarly, I'm against clear cutting the Amazon, even though plenty of poor and indigenous people are involved in that too. I also don't support industrial livestock production.

The seal hunt seems pretty well regulated, but expanding it seems like a bad idea.
posted by klangklangston at 9:20 AM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]




I doubt anyone was still pondering that after the final set yesterday, though. The singer-songwriter Geoff Berner described Animism as “the sound of a people defying genocide,” and if Tanya Tagaq foregrounded that history—a video screen named the 1,182 aboriginal women gone missing or murdered since 1980, several dozen Jane Does in agonizing consonance—she refused to become a prisoner of it. You could tell the A&R types there didn’t really know who Tagaq was, were maybe expecting classicist folk art or something. What they got was both the evening’s most avant-garde performance (meaning sounds not yet heard) and the most metal one (meaning head-banging). Her voice pounced from shivery vulnerability to the fearsome tone of command, and eschewing words allowed for a fascinating number of interpretations. I heard Tagaq’s music variously called harrowing, reverent, sexy, and visceral—none of them solitudes, as a gospel singer can show. People wept. Then it was all charming stage banter: “fuck PETA,” and “fuck Stephen Harper,” too. The last I saw, she was at the after-party dancing to “I Want You Back,” another form of advanced language.
Polaris Prize 2014 Postmortem: Praying For Disintegration
By Chris Randle (Notes on an evening of charming Canadian earnestness punctuated by at least one moment of indisputable triumph.)

posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:41 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Taking a stand against one type of violence while encouraging another is some serious cognitive dissonance.
posted by ridogi at 7:00 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Not really, especially if they're not that connected or you're not an absolute pacifist. Recruiting French Resistance fighters would be taking a stand against one type of violence while encouraging another.
posted by klangklangston at 7:10 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


That Caribou cover struck me as pretty weak. I like her voice, but the strings and soft rock arrangement was just mighty meh. Uja is fucking great though.
posted by klangklangston at 7:14 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


The article CBrachyrhynchos posted refers to the performance as vocal improvisations. Are they? I assumed it was not improvised but set (because otherwise it would be hard on the accompanying choir), but I was wondering how she remembers what comes next when there are no lyrics. If they are improvised, how do the band and choir (especially choir) work? If they're not, how does she remember the non-words?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:08 AM on September 25, 2014


I'm pretty sure that the opinions of Southerners, in general, and Canadians, in the specific, are of little consequence to most northern peoples.
Sadly, since most of the votes are in more-densely populated southern areas, a lot of people who think/want one thing, based on fact or not, can sometimes trump a few people far, far away from the centre who think/want something else - another case in point.
posted by milnews.ca at 8:56 AM on September 25, 2014


In my limited experience, the overall structure of the piece or set is rehearsed in advance with spaces open for improvisation around a given tonality or theme. There's a fair number of covert and not-so-covert ways that soloists, backup musicians, and conductors communicate.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:04 AM on September 25, 2014


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