Imaginary Anthropologies (Gabriel Dharmoo) 2016 Summerworks Review

Imaginary Anthropologies

Imaginary Anthropologies is a theatrical encounter at the intersections of sound art and video installation that cunningly evokes amusement and discomfort on themes of cultural domination, exoticization, and cultural appropriation. The performance explores the versatility and power of the human voice, and how culture and ethnicity impacts our use and perception of vocalizations.

The project, written, performed, and directed by Gabriel Dharmoo, has been performed internationally to critical acclaim. Dharmoo’s virtuosic vocalizations are interspersed with mockumentary-style segments of “anthropologists” providing information and opinion on the cultural forms of expression that Dharmoo is demonstrating. While the cultures are imagined, the vocal techniques used are not.

For example, Dharmoo demonstrated himself to be highly proficient at throat singing, a vocal technique that allows the singer to produce more than one note at a time. The technique is practiced by culutres such as Inuit and Tibetan.

The four pundits who appear in the video represent various archetypes of the academic. The monologues are well written, and well performed. The cinematography by Menad Kesraoui was straightforward and arresting. Much of the pundits’ commentary is satirical, and clearly intended to elucidate the insidious normalization and privileging of our own cultural standards. This effective use of satire elicited understanding chuckles from the audience, and avoided any preachiness in a very cerebral show.

Audience involvement was the highlight of the show. We became the hypnotized choir, under the thrall of our musical guru. Exclusively using conducting gestures, Dharmoo directed the audience to keep time with snapping, and then divided the house into three sections. Assigning a part to each section, Dharmoo wove a textured, rhythmic piece that everyone felt a part of.

Dharmoo is capable of some truly spectacular vocal feats. In addition to throat singing, he also utilized beat-box techniques, R&B style embellishments, and even did some underwater singing. While categorized as theatre in the SummerWorks guide, in my opinion, the show is better described as an interactive, interdisciplinary, sound-art project, that challenges the boundaries of music and culture.


  • Imaginary Anthropologies is playing until August 13 at Factory Theatre Studio, (125 Bathurst Street, Toronto, ON )
  • Show times are August 8 at 4 PM, August 10 at 5:15, August 12 at 4 PM, and August 13 at 2:30 PM
  • Single tickets are $15, a 3-show pass is $40, a 7-show pass is $80, and a 10-show pass is $120.
  • Tickets are available Online, or through the box office at (416) 320-5779