Priya Thomas

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Priya Thomas
Priya Thomas, Sled Island Music Festival.
Background information
Origin Hamilton, Canada
Genres Indie
Instruments Vocals, guitar, piano, violin, drums
Years active 1996-present
Labels High Scores, IRL, Sunny Lane Records
Associated acts Iroquois Falls
Priya Thomas, London UK, live at The Spitz

Priya Thomas is a Canadian artist (musician, dancer, choreographer) and scholar born in Hamilton, Ontario and raised on the South Shore of Montreal, Quebec.

Life and musical career[edit]

Thomas is a classically trained musician whose first instrument was the violin. Born into a diverse family, (her father is a Syrian Orthodox minister, her mother a physicist), Thomas started writing her own music at the age of 11, and went on to tour and support John Cale,[1] The Fall, James, Radiohead, Sam Philips, the Neville Brothers and Rufus Wainwright, among others. She has released work under her own name and under the pseudonym, Iroquois Falls.[2] Thomas is known as much for her visceral,[3] kinetic live performances as her diverse musical catalogue that has earned critical acclaim and comparisons from Bob Dylan to Tom Waits, Lydia Lunch to Sonic Youth.[4][5]

Thomas released her first solo record In the Throes of the Microscope (1996) in her hometown of Montreal to rave reviews. Recorded live off the floor in 24 hours with engineer/producer Glen Robinson, the disc was an introduction to the raw energy of the many years of live shows that had preceded its making.[6] Following its release, Thomas relocated to Toronto where she quietly wrote the experimental, cinematic Armageddon Weather Channel (1998).

Armageddon Weather Channel was a deliberate inquiry into form; its songs shifted into unusual time signatures and played with darker moods and structural abstraction. Musical contributors included Ian Ilavsky (CST Records, Silver Mt. Zion) who played on three tracks. Despite a notable lack of radioplay or distribution, the disc's "peak expression of one of rock's aggressively elemental forms"[7] met with critical acclaim from critics across Canada.[8]

The considerably more accessible Songs for Car Commercials was released in 2002 to increasing commercial interest and an expanded tour schedule that included several tours and festival performances in the US and the UK. The shows for Songs for Car Commercials featured Thomas playing guitar and singing to a host of sequencers, old analog cassette recorders and looping toys. The performances, billed as "Girl with Guitar and Beatbox", were "near epileptic," "audacious," "like a wind up toy from hell."[9]

You and Me Against the World Baby, released in 2006 by IRL (UK), marked a departure from its predecessor. Mixed in the UK by Paul Cartledge, its sonic assault and lyrical literacy were captured onstage by a five piece band that toured the UK, Europe and Canada. Vancouver's Georgia Straight ranked You and Me Against the World Baby alongside releases by Neko Case and Cat Power as one of the Top Ten Records of 2006. The innovative cut and paste animated video for "Motherfucking West" was presented in 2007 as part of the International Music Video Festival in Berlin, Amsterdam, Tokyo and New York City.

In 2008, Priya Thomas is Blood Heron (Renovation Tracks) was released by Sunny Lane Records to widespread critical acclaim in the US and Canada.[10] "All blood, guts and jugular veins,"[11] Blood Heron's raw, idiosyncratic folk rock songs made with broken two-string ukuleles, pots and pans and wooden spoons earned disc of the week in Canada's Globe and Mail and several other dailies and weeklies.[12] Enlisting the help of drummer/producer Stephen Pitkin (Elliott Brood) to realize its final sound, Blood Heron's "incredibly spare but powerful," "half-broken songs"[13][14] earned comparisons to Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Robert Fripp, Lucinda Williams, Patti Smith,[15] Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits.

In 2012, Thomas regrouped to form an experimental project called Iroquois Falls. A limited edition 7" EP on yellow vinyl entitled Twice-Born-Once-From-A-Gun was released by Toronto label Hi-Scores on March 21, 2012. The video for the singles, "Hey Annie (Twice-Born-Once-from-a-Gun)" and "The Magician's Niece" previewed on, garnering solid reviews from Interview Magazine [16] and Magnet [17] for its jarring din of guitars and vocals, and lomography meets Andy Warhol visuals.


Thomas is also a classically trained dancer and choreographer who studied under Priyamvada Sankar in Montreal, Quebec. Sankar, the eldest daughter of eminent Sanskrit scholar V. Raghavan, was also the first student of the legendary T. Balasaraswati [18] with whom Sankar trained for nineteen years at the Madras Music Academy. Thomas performed her arangetram (a full length recital that marks formal initiation into stage performance) in 1983 and continued to study Bharata Natyam with Sankar until 1995, performing regularly in Canada, the US and India. Thomas also studied Carnatic vocal music (1980-1995) and Sanskrit with Priyamvada Sankar (1993-1995). Thomas has choreographed and performed in contemporary dance pieces, most notably collaborating with Hari Krishnan, (artistic director of InDance) and Devraj Patnaik (co-founder of Chitralekha Odissi Dance Creations) on the piece "Three Equals One of Whatever Happens" which was commissioned by Dusk Dances, Toronto.

Following the loss of her close friend and musical supporter, John Michael Auden McVey to suicide in March 2009, Thomas returned to movement work and choreographic practices. Having completed her yoga teacher training in 2010 at YogaSpace Toronto, she founded the widely read online yoga magazine, Shivers Up the Spine: The Yoga Examiner which bridges streams of practice and research on modern yoga through conversations with scholars, teachers and writers from around the globe. She continues to teach and practice ashtanga yoga in Toronto.

Scholarly work[edit]

Thomas earned her B.A in Religious Studies at McGill University, and an M.A from York University. Her MA thesis, a full-length documentary film of Kathakali choreographer Richard Tremblay entitled, Regular Events of Beauty was nominated by the Faculty of Fine Arts for a York University thesis prize in 2002.

Currently completing a PhD in Dance Studies at York University, Thomas' doctoral research offers a posthuman prehistory of the monstrous, nonhuman other in European theatrical performance. She is the recipient of several research awards including a multi-year fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the W. Lawrence Heisey Award for scholarly achievement in the Fine Arts, the Evelyn Carnie Rowe Award for research in Canadian dance, the Iris Garland Award (2012) from the Canadian Society of Dance Studies, the Selma Jeanne Cohen Award (honorable mention) by the Society for Dance History Scholars (2013) and the Outstanding Graduate Research Award by the Congress of Research in Dance (2013).[19]



  1. ^ "John Cale :: 2005 :: Priya Thomas". Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  2. ^ "Iroquois Falls EP". Retrieved 2012-03-08. 
  3. ^ Warner, Mike (2007-06-06). "North By Northeast: Friday Preview | news". Torontoist. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  4. ^ "Exclusive Video Premiere: 'The Magician's Niece,' Iroquois Falls - Page". Interview Magazine. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  5. ^ "Listings". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  6. ^ Cindy Mcglynn. "Eye Weekly - Women on the verge - 06.12.97". Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  7. ^ "33 rpm (Priya Thomas)". Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  8. ^ "Eye Weekly - Record Guide Reviews - 05.28.98". Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  9. ^ "Priya Thomas@Holy Joe's". Chart Attack. 2002-03-01. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  10. ^ "Ground Control - Priya Thomas - [Album]". Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  11. ^ "Renovations still raw, but the place shows well". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  12. ^ "Priya Thomas - Is Blood Heron (Renovation Tracks) - Hour Community". 2009-01-15. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  13. ^ "Ground Control - Priya Thomas - [Album]". Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  14. ^ "PRIYA THOMAS-"Blood Heron" | Berkeley Place". 2008-10-14. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  15. ^ "Jeffrey Morgan’s Media Blackout | Columns | Detroit Metro Times". Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  16. ^ "Exclusive Video Premiere: 'The Magician's Niece,' Iroquois Falls - Page". Interview Magazine. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  17. ^ "Film At 11: Iroquois Falls". 2012-03-16. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  18. ^ "News Archives". The Hindu. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  19. ^ "PhD Dance Studies students receives ‘prestigious’ award | GS News – Graduate Studies". 2013-10-30. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 


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