Aqpik Jam 2006 brings the South up North

Inuit, Cree, Innu and Naskapi join in a multi-cultural celebration



KUUJJUAQ — Kuujjuaq’s Aqpik Jam packed a huge selection of bands — from the South and the North — into its four-day run last week, offering something for every age group and musical taste.

Throat-singers from the Kuujjuaq Youth Group opened the 11th edition of the festival — and then it was up to country music singer Charlie Major to fire up the festival crowd.

Major, known mainly for his song “The Other Side,” saved this well-known tune for the end of his show, wowing the crowd of fans gathered at the Kattitavik Town Hall.

Rick d’Opera’s country-blues cover band from Montreal opened the second evening of music. Then, Innu singer Florent Vollant, formerly of Kashtin, took the stage.

Accompanied by a band of young Innu from Matimekush (John Lake), near Schefferville, Volant got the crowd dancing to his rhythmic tunes, which included some of Kashtin’s best-known numbers.

Volant’s folksy performance was followed by a set featuring a band of alternative musicians from Saguenay Lac St-Jean, The Stomachs.

On the Aqpik Jam’s third night, Les Trois Accords, a Québécois band from Drummondville, played catchy numbers, and, although many couldn’t understand a word they said, members of the audience jumped out of their seats, and danced the night away.

“Bringing all those big acts from the South certainly cost a lot of money,” said Sammy Koneak, the festival’s organizer. “But the crowd seemed to really enjoy it, so it was all worthwhile.”

However, northern acts were at the heart of the festival.

The Kaittitavik hall filled with laughter, when Nunavut’s beloved singer, Charlie Panigoniak of Rankin Inlet took the stage with his humourous songs. He was joined by Norman Irksuk of Arviat and his sons.

The Irksuk family, known for their “Quviasugitsi” song and many others, delighted the crowd with one of their popular tunes, whose lyrics they rearranged to thank Kuujjuamiut for an invitation to perform at the Aqpik Jam.

Other popular acts were a duo of Kuujjuaq rappers, Jackie Gadbois and Putulik Johannes, named “50 bucks,” after the rapper named 50 Cent; a dance troupe of young women from Kuujjuaq mesmerized kids with hip-hop moves.

Beatrice Deer of Quaqtaq surprised her audience, by previewing a few new songs, which will be featured on her second album.

Sylvia Cloutier, an Iqaluit resident originally from Kuujjuaq, also delivered an original performance with her Iqaluit friend D.J. Mad Eskimo (a.k.a Geronimo Inutiq). The two mixed the sounds of throatsinging and ayaya songs with scratchy old vinyl records on the turntable. The result: a one-of-a-kind hip-hop rap.

Thanks to Air Inuit, this year’s Aqpik Jam was also a chance for Inuit to get together with other aboriginal people and celebrate their cultural diversity. The Cree of Whapmagoustui and Innu of Matemekush livened up the bash with some accordion, violin and square dances of their own.

Several Naskapi of Schefferville also made the trip up to Kuujjuaq, where they renewed friendships with friends and relatives. They also contributed a few delicious dishes for everyone to enjoy at a community feast held by the municipality of Kuujjuaq.

During the week, other activities also celebrated the aqpik (cloudberry) and berry-picking season and the end of the summer. These included the customary aqpik and berry-picking contests as well as a golf tournament, lunch-hour bingo and games.

On Thursday night, the last night before the start of school in Kuujjuaq, kids were also treated with a set of fireworks.

And on Friday, the Aqpik Jam’s final night, musicians from all around the North, who had been performing throughout the week, joined with local musicians for a big jam that lasted until the early morning hours.

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