Tanya Tagaq teams up with Greenlandic mask dancer for 'incredibly intense' music video

The celebrated Inuk throat singer and Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory have been friends and collaborators for years, and this fall they've showcased two projects dealing with the themes of reconciliation and retribution.

Duo collaborates on new Tagaq song and multimedia piece for #CallResponse

'It very much feels like a cross-fertilization when we're able to share space on stage together — it makes us both larger than life,' says Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory. (Clare Yow)

A celebrated Inuk throat singer and Greedlandic mask dancer are sharing their styles and talents once again for two projects that centre around reconciliation and retribution.

Both Tanya Tagaq and friend Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory are known for their expressive and unabashedly physical performances, which often delve into the dark side of humanity.

This week, Tagaq released the music video for Retribution — the title track of her new album — which featured a somewhat haunting performance by Williamson Bathory.

"It's an incredibly intense piece of music and an awful lot of fun to make," said Williamson Bathory.

The video, which features an unsettling spoken word piece about the "rape" of the land and of Indigenous women's strengths, comes from Williamson Bathory's signature speaking style. It's underlined with traditional throat singing from Tagaq.

"Tanya and I have a very dissimilar and very similar performances and that's something that's really exciting to both of us," said Williamson Bathory.

"It very much feels like a cross-fertilization when we're able to share space on stage together. It makes us both larger than life."

'Speechless and cried and clapped'

The other collaboration between the two artists took place on Oct. 27 in Vancouver for a project titled #callresponse.

Tanya Taqaq 'was speechless and cried and clapped,' after Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory's performance. (Clare Yow)

The project, curated by Métis curator Tarah Hogue, brought together five female Indigenous artists to create individual works about the process of reconciliation.

Each of the five pieces created for the show was designed as a "call", which was then answered by another artist.

Williamson Bathory's "call" was a short video titled Timiga, nunalu sikulu (My body, the land and the ice), made in partnership with Jamie Griffiths, that was accompanied by a live mask dance. The music in the film is composed by Chris Coleman and sung by Celina Kalluk, Tagaq's cousin.

'I put on the mask and we had another really fun, intimate, scary, hilarious, performance together,' says Williamson Bathory. (Clare Yow)

When Williamson Bathory concluded her live performance, Tagaq was expected to respond, but that's not what happened.

"She was speechless and cried and clapped," said Williamson Bathory.

"She was especially surprised that she heard her own cousin singing in the film."

Tagaq was so taken aback by Williamson Bathory's multimedia piece that it took some time for her to start her response performance.

"Eventually she did pull it together and she did start singing and I put on the mask and we had another really fun, intimate, scary, hilarious, performance together," said Williamson Bathory.

'The stories... become ours'

Working side by side with a group of Indigenous women who make art was an eye-opening experience for Williamson Bathory.

"I felt like we were able to touch new places in our souls because it doesn't happen that often that you can have such like-minded people come together," she said.

The video Timiga, nunalu sikulu (My body, the land and the ice) was made in partnership with Jamie Griffiths with music composed by Chris Coleman sung by Celina Kalluk. (submitted by Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory)

She said these are the kinds of shared experiences that open the path for reconciliation in Canada.

"I think it's so important for Canadians, especially Indigenous peoples, to understand that there are so many stories about our cultures, our languages and our histories.

"And the stories only become ours if we tell them ourselves and it's a powerful moment for everyone Indigenous and non-Indigenous."

The other artists involved in #callresponse were Maria Hupfield (Anishinaabe), Tania Willard (Secwepemc), Christi Belcourt (Métis), Ursula Johnson (Mi'kmaw) and Williamson Bathory (Inuk).


Sima Sahar Zerehi is a reporter with CBC North. She started her career in journalism with the ethnic press working for a Canadian-based Farsi language newspaper. Her CBC journey began as a regular commentator with CBC radio's Metro Morning. Since then she's worked with CBC in Montreal, Toronto and now Iqaluit.