Nunavut’s music scene is growing, and the Aakuluk Music record label is looking to continue to build on this success by hosting Nunavut Music Week.
The Northern parts of Canada are well known for the variety of artists that come from the region. From carving to throat singing, Northern Canadians are making their mark on the international stage. In line with this is a growing group of northern musicians who are working hard to be recognized and succeed worldwide. The first Nunavut Music Week was held earlier this fall in Iqaluit to help strengthen an already growing community of northern musicians. Andrew Morrison, one of the co-founders of Aakuluk Music and a member of the Jerry Cans, spoke to High North News about the event in an email interview. "The idea behind NMW [Nunavut Music Week] is to bring together artists from the Territory and a number of contacts we have met over the years to discuss how to strengthen the Nunavut music industry in the Territory, across the country, and internationally."
Budding Music in the North
Being a musician in the North of Canada is challenging. With tickets from Iqaluit to Ottawa often costing $2,000-$3,000, touring is an expensive prospect. And even when you do get tickets to tour around the region, there are often winter storms that can leave you stranded, as was the case with the Twin Flames recently. There are limited opportunities to connect with various support systems when you are based in smaller northern communities. As Mr. Morrison commented, "There are bands here [in Nunavut] that could tour the world if they had the same support as bands living in Montreal and Toronto."
But the desire to keep the music industry alive in Nunavut is much more than just a celebration of music and following a passion. Singing in Inuttitut is a way of keeping a culture alive. Language revitalization is a continual challenge for those living in the northern regions of Canada, and many Indigenous peoples across the country. A recent High North News interview with the new Premier of Nunavut showed the importance that the Territory is placing on the importance of language. Singing in Indigenous languages not only engages a new generation, but shows a passion for an important piece of culture. Mr. Morrison emphasized that, "we want Inuttitut music to be known around the world, and we want young people to know that when they sing in Inuttitut they can be heard and loved all around the world."
Growing interest for non-English music
Around the world, people will comment on the fact that much of the music industry is dominated by English speakers and this is especially true in North America. Yet with examples such as "Despacito", a latin-pop song that topped charts this summer, there is a growing interest in non-English speaking music. So the Nunavut Music Week tried to capitalize on this, wrote Mr. Morris. "The idea came from The Jerry Cans' experience trying to promote Inuttitut music across around the world and some of the challenges that came up from that. We realized that English was so dominant in the Music industry and we really wanted to figure out ways to develop more opportunities for Inuttitut singing artists."
The event, however, was not without challenges. One of the most challenging was a massive blizzard that happened on the last night of the week. As Mr. Morris commented, however they adapted: "of course there was a legendary giant blizzard the closing night but we adapted (Northern style)." The blizzard coincided with a planned concert starring Tanya Tagaq, a Juno Award winner who was recently named a Member of the Order of Canada, and the Jerry Cans, the festival creators. Unfortunately due to the weather, the concert had to be cancelled.
Northerners improvised - successfully
This did not stop anyone, instead they, "threw a giant party with live bands at our drummer's house." This creativity and ability to adapt to challenging situations is typical of Northerners, wrote Mr. Morrison: "Northerners are resourceful in our lives but also in our music. All the challenges, and the ways we addressed them, were all part of showing southern music industry what our community is all about."
In fact, when the Jerry Cans came to play a concert in Toronto in late November, the band made reference to not only the event, but the storm itself. In the warm basement concert in Toronto, it was not hard to image the Jerry Cans rousing a crowd in the home of their drummer, bringing life to a challenge that could have been quite disastrous for the event. Bringing people together to enjoy not only their music, but also Northern culture was clearly on display when the Jerry Cans played and was no doubt an inspiration during the inaugural Nunavut Music Week.
The Future of the NMW
This is not the end for the Nunavut Music Week. As Mr. Morrison pointed out, "By the end of the week, everyone was so happy with how things went. Both top-level music industry guests and artists from across Nunavut so excited about the future." The connections that were made throughout the event will hopefully spread throughout the northern music industry.
And Mr. Morrison assures everyone that due to the successes of the first Nunavut Music Week, there will indeed be a second one. "We are planning for Spring 2019! Mark your calendars!"