A venue full of people in awe cheered for 19-year-old Nelson Tagoona, a beat boxer and guitarist from Baker Lake, Nunavut as he opened for A Tribe Called Red (ATCR) and MAMA DJs at the Black Box Theatre in Toronto. Captivating the audience with his talent, Tagoona skillfully orchestrated a beat by conducting the crowd to shout “HEY”, rhythmically enough to produce sounds that would accompany his beat boxing, guitar and throat singing. The young, emerging Canadian artist, featured on this year’s Top Ten Under 20 list, undoubtedly claimed the rank with his performance at the 14th Annual imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival event, which was in association with the Music Gallery and Slaight Music. Although Tagoona isn’t searching for stardom quite yet, he is obviously on the radar, as a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee. “I saw Nelson Tagoona in Ottawa, he blew me away, I was really excited to bring him in,” said Sage Paul, the events and communications director at ImagineNATIVE. As dubstep shook the floors and base dropped hard, Tagoona, skittish with nerves and excitement, talked about his craft, journey and the work he does with youth.
WHAT PROMPTED YOUR DECISION TO PERFORM? I wanted to have a band, but in a small town, it’s hard to find. I decided to be my own band – I really wanted to be on stage, I wanted to shine. My train of thought really started when I realized the energy within me could connect with others out there.
DO YOU TRY TO PROJECT YOUR ROOTS IN YOUR PERFORMANCE? It’s hard to say – within my art, it thrives off the moment. I don’t plan much, just the guitar riffs, so I have an idea of what to play but no, when I go on stage I’m flowing – in my blissful state of mind, away from reality. When I’m on stage, I feel safe and not alone.
“When working with youth, it’s this energy – my feeling is complete responsibility. Like I’m in control at the moment, and I’m expressing myself because youth are so free floating. And there are youth who deal with these issues that scratch at the heart.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BEING ABLE TO PERFORM FOR A TRIBE CALLED RED? I am really glad this opportunity came. I’m used to being up north and being down south, there is so much momentum here and I never thought I would ever be on a stage like this.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE YOUTH AND THE COMMUNITY THAT YOU WANT TO PROJECT AND GIVE BACK TO? When working with youth, it’s this energy – my feeling is complete responsibility. Like I’m in control at the moment, and I’m expressing myself because youth are so free floating. And there are youth who deal with these issues that scratch at the heart. It’s the inspirational drive we want to share with the youth, the bliss, vision and heart; it’s the energy and whole atmosphere moving in sync. Opening doors to many new places you thought you’d never be. Everything I do is a true message, there is confusion and so much that goes on in real life, but I like to use my dynamic tool to express the feelings that are built within me and it takes away the negativity.
WHERE DID THE INSPIRATION AND YOUR LOVE OF HIP-HOP COME FROM? I was always interested in hip- hop, I would catch on to things, it’s just the rhythm – the feeling, and the perspective, all around – and it numbed a lot of my pain.
DO YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE A HIGHER PLATFORM WITH YOUR BEAT BOXING, PERFORMANCE AND TALENT? I’m at a paused state right now, because I have been through so much and I want to make sure I guide myself in the right direction... if you have a belief and you know you can do it in all your soul you’re going to achieve it.
Interview By. Dinusha Wijemanne