Why you haven’t heard it:
Nunavutitut was the debut album of Inuit folk-rock band The Jerry Cans. Although acts like A Tribe Called Red and Tanya Tagaq have started to push First Nations music toward the mainstream, these artists rarely got the attention they deserve. In the bygone age of 2012, a throat-singing ensemble of ex-punks chanting about clubbing seals and food security in Iqaluit was too out-there to be picked up by all but the most indie of labels.
Why it might be tough to get through:
Learning Inuktitut isn’t high on anyone’s list of priorities in a city where many people are still struggling to learn French. The English songs also tend to send listeners down a Wikipedia rabbit-hole as they frantically Google references to NorthMart, the federal seal hunting ban, PETA’s history of conflict with the Inuit people, and town names that even autocorrect can’t figure out.
Why you should listen to it anyway:
It’s fun, it’s upbeat, it’s unique, and it gives us a small window into the lives of our most Northern citizens. “Northern affairs” has often been a buzzword used by politicians seeking to pad their progressive reputation, but most Canadians south of the Territories hardly know what issues the North is actually facing. This album shines a light on those issues. As an album, it’s also incredibly well structured and eclectic, blending classic Canadian folk with a strong beat bordering on punk. Quebecois and Irish-inspired fiddle music backing Inuktitut vocals creates a blend of styles that truly captures Canada’s heritage.
-The lead vocalist didn’t actually speak Inuktitut until he started dating the accordionist. The violinist then joined the band after a brief stint in the Iqaluit fiddle ensemble.
-The band has played several shows in Australia, where their message of Indigenous rights and the difficult yet beautiful life of the frontier resonates strongly among the local population.
-The band did an Inuktitut cover of The Tragically Hip’s “Ahead by a Century” as a testament to the importance of Gord Downie’s life to the Canadian music scene.
-The band once described their work as “seal-clubbing music,” as a reference to its uniquely Northern sound and the fact that no one down South liked it.
Best lines and songs:
-“Mamaqtuq!” literally translates to “Tastes Great.” The song “Mamaqtuq” captures the cosy and boisterous attitude of a lodge after a successful hunt as they dig in for a communal meal of seal.
-”The GN Song” just straight-up complains about the ineffectiveness of the federal government in the territories for its entire length and captures many of the daily annoyances faced by Northern communities.
-“Dear Peta” is a surprisingly comprehensive criticism of PETA’s campaigns to end the seal hunt and how they have negatively impacted Inuit communities while inadvertently harming the environment.