Nunavut is a true musical hotbed.
Susan Aglukark, the chart-topping singer-songwriter from Arviat whose hit O Siem reached No. 1 in 1995, grew up here. So did avant garde artist Tanya Tagaq, who has since toured the globe, collaborated with some of the music industry’s biggest names, and picked up the Polaris Music Prize in 2014—Canadian music’s most coveted award.
Today, our territory continues to nurture some of Canada’s most exciting artists, who creatively combine new sounds with traditional styles, drawing inspiration from this land and singing about their Arctic realities for all the world in both Inuktut and English.
Here are five Nunavut musicians you need to hear:
One of Nunavut’s rising stars, Riit exploded onto the scene in 2017 on the power of her catchy single Imiqtaq—an innovative take on a traditional children’s song. Riit blends pop melodies with traditional throat-singing. On her 2019 album, Ataataga, the Pangnirtung artist explored more electronic sounds, texturing beautiful harmonies and throat-singing over synthy soundscapes. Ataataga was nominated for a Juno award and long-listed for the Polaris Music Prize.
Josh Q. & the Trade-Offs
Josh Qaumariaq’s soulful voice brings warmth to even the coldest, darkest days. His Iqaluit-based trio—backed by bassist Jeff Maurice and a rotating cast of drummers—plays a blues-and-rock hybrid style that’s been dubbed Arctic Soul. Qaumariaq, singing in both Inuktut and English, writes songs that inspire fans to see the brighter side of life.
The Jerry Cans
Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably hummed along to a song by The Jerry Cans on the radio during your daily commute. This groundbreaking Iqaluit fivetet is known for infectious hooks, driving beats, limitless energy and its can-do attitude. Members of the Jerry Cans recently started Nunavut’s first record label—Aakuluk Music—to bring Inuktut music to the world. The Jerry Cans have toured the globe, been nominated for multiple Juno Awards and Canadian Folk Music Awards and were named Up Here magazine’s 2017 Northerners of the Year for their tireless work to promote Nunavut artists and to show Nunavummiut and Northerners there is a southern audience out there desperate to hear their music.
For more than 35 years, Northern Haze has been the hardest rocking band in the North. The band’s debut album, Sinnaktuq, remains a classic. The Iglulik band are legit rock stars in Nunavut—fans of the Hazers, as they’re known in Nunavut, will travel from across the territory to see them play live. After a decade-long hiatus following the deaths of two founding members, the trailblazing band recently reunited to record new music, releasing Siqinnaarut in 2018, which was nominated for a Juno Award.
New to the scene, Aasiva is a pop star in the making, singing upbeat and unforgettable songs backed by her ukulele. (Teaching young Nunavummiut how to play the ukulele is one of her passions.) Aasiva’s debut self-titled album was nominated for two Indigenous Music Awards in 2019.