Quantum Tangle is a performance-based storytelling group from Yellowknife consisting of Inuk-Canadian vocalist Tiffany Ayalik and Anishinaabe-Métis guitarist Greyson (Grey) Gritt. The genre-bending duo’s music is informed by Inuit throat singing, spoken-word storytelling and blues-inspired folk rock. Inspired by their respective Indigenous ancestries, Quantum Tangle’s music explores identity, systemic racism, colonialism, the environment and Indigenous histories. Their album, Tiny Hands (2016), won the 2017 Juno Award for Indigenous Music Album of the Year.
Tiffany Ayalik is of Inuit descent on her father’s side and Canadian (Irish and English) on her mother’s side. Born in 1988 in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Ayalik is a performer who has worked as an actor in television and theatre. She also lends her vocals to Quantum Tangle. Greyson Gritt, born in Sudbury, Ontario in 1987 to a Métis father and Ojibwe mother, is a musician who has lived and worked in Yellowknife for several years. Gritt identifies as transgender and two-spirit.
Ayalik and Gritt met in 2013 when they were participating in Northern Scene events in Ottawa, Ontario. After Gritt helped Ayalik with an audition, they recognized that they had an artistic connection and shared certain political views about Indigenous peoples in Canada.
Their first official collaboration occurred after Ayalik approached Gritt about working together on a performance at the 2014 Indigenous Circumpolar Women’s Gathering in Yellowknife. Inspired by stories they heard from residential school survivors at the conference, the duo re-imagined the Inuit legend of the amautalik, a female giant who stole and ate (or sometimes enslaved) children, into a story/song featured on their first studio recording, Tiny Hands (2016). The amautalik serves as an allegory for the Indigenous children who were taken from their families and forcibly placed in residential schools. After the 2014 gathering, Ayalik and Gritt began creating more music together, eventually forming Quantum Tangle.
Quantum Tangle released their first EP, Tiny Hands (Coax Records), in June 2016. It had three tracks: “Tiny Hands,” “The Amautalik” and “The Ijiraq.” The title of the album and song of the same name references the handiwork of Ayalik’s and Gritt’s grandmothers. One of Ayalik’s grandmothers, an Inuk woman from Kugluktuk, Nunavut, was a respected seamstress as well as a hunter and fisher.Ayalik’s vocals on the EP are influenced by Inuit throat singing, and Gritt’s blues guitar is informed by folkrock.
In April 2017, Tiny Hands won Quantum Tangle their first Juno Award for Indigenous Music Album of the Year. An impressive feat for an EP with only three songs, Quantum Tangle earned high praise in the Indigenous music community. In May 2018, the sākihiwē festival (formerly Aboriginal Music Week) described the tracks as “incredible,” and commented further on the band’s accomplishment at the Juno’s by tweeting that the three songs “exceeded the awards’ 20 minutes of music minimum by only 13 seconds.” Digital Drum, a music media platform that showcases Indigenous talent, called the duo “inspirational artists and masterful storytellers” with “a sound as representative of their Indigenous cultures as it is unique.”
Quantum Tangle subsequently released their second studio album, Shelter as we go… (Coax Records) in July 2017. It included the original version of “Tiny Hands,” as well as a re-imagined version featuring a darker and more somber sound. Shelter as we go… explores a variety of themes, from Inuit culture (such as in the song “Igluvut”) to contemporary politics (“Freeze Melt Boil”); and from family (“Ikersuaq” and “Angnahiak”) to identity, inclusion and diversity (“Love is Love, parts 1 & 2”).
Though the album features throat singing and blues, as did the first album, Shelter as we go… also explores electronica and modern looping technology. According to Gritt, Quantum Tangle experimented with depth and texture on their second album through multiple layers of vocals and instruments — techniques they did not use previously because they based their shows on what they could play live on stage.
Ayalik and Gritt are vocal advocates for Indigenous rights, decolonization, protecting the environment and 2SLGBTQ+ individuals. They have voiced their belief that music venues and festivals, as well as the tech fields in music, would benefit from gender and racial diversity.
Quantum Tangle uses their live performances to challenge and educate audiences about colonialism, systemic racism and Indigenous histories. The duo is committed to empowering marginalized groups and encouraging Indigenous youth to be proud of where they come from and to know their histories and traditions. Ayalik and Gritt also organize school workshops that focus on Indigenous issues in northern Canada (see Subarctic Indigenous Peoples in Canada).
Key Performances and Tours
In 2017, Quantum Tangle was selected as one of the featured groups to perform with From the North 150, a tour that brought together musicians from the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. From the North 150 travelled to Whitehorse, Yellowknife, Iqaluit, Montréal, Ottawa and Vancouver. The duo has also completed a European tour.
Following their Juno win in April 2017, Quantum Tangle performed at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre and Ottawa’s National Arts Centre in July of that year. They also played at the Canmore Folk Festival that August. Additionally, Ayalik and Gritt served as musical directors for Mary Walsh’s 2017 stage production, Canada, It’s Complicated.
In October 2017, the duo participated in the launch of the Building Reciprocity project at the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto. The Building Reciprocity project is attentive to the two-spirit presence within 2SLGBTQ+ communities, and it is intended to cultivate positive and inclusive relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
Both Ayalik and Gritt also continue to perform as solo artists; Gritt as a musician and Ayalik as a theatre actor.