Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut July 03, 2012 - 6:36 am

Tagoona shines in Alianait’s Battle of the Bands

Eighteen-year-old spreads positive message, wins $1,000 grand-prize

DAVID MURPHY
Nelson Tagoona: “This festival is the biggest experience for me. It’s life-transforming.” (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)
Nelson Tagoona: “This festival is the biggest experience for me. It’s life-transforming.” (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)
“It’s not just about having all the fame, all the glamour, all the girls,” Nelson Tagoona said. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)
“It’s not just about having all the fame, all the glamour, all the girls,” Nelson Tagoona said. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)

A skinny 18-year-old walks on stage with a swagger, wearing baggy jeans, an “I heart NU” tee-shirt, and an electric guitar.

No one in the audience could have guessed what happened next.

Nelson Tagoona started off playing a heavy electric guitar for the 100 or so people squished into the Big Top Tent at the Alianait Arts Festival, gathered there for the free Battle of the Bands show July 2.

It would have been the fourth set in a row that a guitar was the main instrument in a band’s act. It wasn’t.

Tagoona stepped up to the microphone, sang a verse and started beat boxing in unison with his guitar. The beat boxing took over, and he laid down the guitar.

His beat boxing lead into his self-described “throat boxing” style — a form of beat boxing, but using throat singing techniques to create a similar yet unique sound.

The act transformed yet again when the throat boxing took a back seat and Tagoona merged raps among his popping and slurring throat boxing sounds.

Before long, it was just him and microphone with no set lyrics, freestyling messages of encouragement to the audience, whose eyes were fixed on Tagoona, clapping along for the first time at the event.

Yet again, he changed genre to R&B with his second song, entitled “Alive Again,” half rapping and half singing about the tribulations he’s seen living in Nunavut, and how to overcome them.

This was the performance that won the Baker Lake teenager the $1,000 first-place grand prize.

“It’s not just about having all the fame, all the glamour, all the girls. It’s about connecting with youth and trying to change lives to the most positive experience possible,” Tagoona said after being named the winner of the event.

This wasn’t Tagoona’s only contribution to the festival. He hosted a beat and throat box workshop outside the big top tent on Canada Day, where another 100 or so teens and youth came out and listened to his positive messages. 

“I had a rough past experience, with all the drugs and the negative side, and hiding that stuff behind my family,” said Tagoona, explaining his message.

“I’m going to try and inspire others to let go of their habits. To straight up, find a better goal, find that one spark in the sky that they’re going to try to fly towards.”

The cash prize is nice, and Tagoona plans on spending the money on music gear and to pay a few bills.

But he didn’t come to Iqaluit just to win a prize.

“This festival is the biggest experience for me. It’s life-transforming because when I’m home, I’m always alone. Straight up, I’m a solitary guy when I’m back home and I don’t really communicate [as much as a] the normal person should.”

“My confidence will just kind of disappear, but with that confidence, I have a positive message to try to bring forth,” he said.

That message again: “You can’t stop; you can’t just kick off your socks and lay back with nothing left. You always have that brighter spirit to lift you up from off the ground,” he said, almost rapping it in conversation.

“You always have to lift yourself back up and eventually people will see what you’re doing and be inspired, and live a brighter life.”

Consolation prizes were also handed out to the runners up:

2nd Place: Brian Tagalik — $600

3rd Place: Kikkukia — $400

4th Place: Abe “Aqaaqtoq” Eetak — $150

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