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Geoff Berner’s Introduction Speech For Tanya Tagaq

When Tanya Tagaq won the 2014 Polaris Music Prize last night for her Animism album she was introduced to the Polaris Gala audience with a spirited speech courtesy of Geoff Berner, the klezmer punk accordionist and author of the book Festival Man.

To watch the speech, as well as Tagaq’s performance and winner announcement see the above video.

A full text of his speech is below:

Canadian scientists recently found the so-called “lost” Franklin expedition in the Arctic. Turns out, it was exactly where the Inuit have been saying it was, all along. Who would have thought?

Who would have thought that, if we had only listened to these ingenious navigators and survivors, we could have saved ourselves a whole lot of foolishness?

If you would like to know how our culture needs to find its way in the 21st century, I would suggest that you save yourself a lot of trouble, and listen to Tanya Tagaq’s album Animism.

Animism is a masterpiece because it transcends opposites. Dizzyingly complex and sophisticated in structure, it also completely hits you in your guts, in your soul.

It takes traditions that are tens of thousands of years old, and makes truly innovative music, music that could not have existed without Tagaq and her brilliant collaborators, violinist Jesse Zubot, drummer Jean Martin and DJ Michael Red.

The innovation on Animism is an argument not for moving beyond, but for putting more emphasis on the value and necessity of the traditions. The rootedness is where the newness of the record comes from. That will not be a contradiction for you, if you listen properly.

Animism seamlessly uses the technology of the digital recording studio to make an encyclopedic argument for the natural world. In fact, it will erase from your mind the notion of human artifice and nature as opposites. If you listen.

If you listen, you will careen through a panorama of the contradictions of existence. You can hear the living land, and the land under assault. You can hear children being born and conceived. You can hear the torture of the innocent, and the glory of the tenacious, unstoppable force of life. If you listen you can actually hear the sound of a people defying genocide to rise, wounded but alive, strong, and ready to fight.

There is no artist working today more emphatically herself, more incomparable than Tagaq. There is no musician in this world more powerful. Animism is the album that finally translates her unique power to the recording studio.

Can you hear it? If not, try listening some more. You’ll find it, eventually. I hope that in this instance, it takes people less than 170 years.

Ladies and Gentlemen, performing with the Element Choir, Christine Duncan, Jean Martin, Jesse Zubot here is Tagaq.

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