Children’s book from Indigenous singers celebrates ‘gems’ of Arctic music
‘Maakusie Loves Music’ first educational book from Twin Flames duo
A new children’s book from a famed Indigenous music duo is shining a spotlight on Arctic music.
Maakusie Loves Music is a brightly illustrated book from the couple Chelsey June and Jaaji, otherwise known as the acclaimed folk-rock group Twin Flames.
It’s the first foray into children’s literature for the pair, who wanted to introduce young readers to the world of traditional and modern Inuit music.
The story follows Maakusie, a young Inuk boy, as he practises throat singing, or katajjaniq in Inuktitut, sings ajaajaa songs, and learns how to drum and about Inuit musical traditions from his grandmother.
The story showcases Inuit music traditions from across the North, even stretching into Greenland.
“Having grown up in the North, the folk scene was very prevalent in my younger days, and then all of a sudden music just grew from there,” Jaaji said.
The Twin Flames members sing in a mix of English, French and Inuktitut and come from mixed Indigenous backgrounds — June is Métis (Algonquin-Cree heritage) from Ottawa, and Jaaji is Inuk and Mohawk from Nunavik and Kahnawake.
“Even though I’m away from the North now, I still have my ear to the ground and I see a lot of stuff that is happening [in music],” Jaaji said.
“That’s kind of what we wanted to capture in this book,” June added.
“There is so much talent, there’s so much love, there’s so much community and showing the outside world what kind of gems exist way up in the Arctic.”
Maakusie’s grandmother also features prominently in the story, just as elders play such a vital role in Indigenous cultures.
“Oral traditions are something that have been passed on through generations,” Jaaji said.
The pair knew they wanted certain clothing and hairstyles depicted that represented both modern and traditional Inuit culture. Those images are brought to life through vibrant digital illustrations by Tamara Campeau.
They also wanted to highlight interesting developments in music styles, like the popularity of brass bands in the Arctic.
“I think a huge part of this project is what could we bring into a school or into a household, because whenever we do presentations children are just fascinated about where Jaaji comes from, about the Arctic and about music,” June said.
Music is not only an important creative outlet for people, it is also a tool in educating children.
“I wish there would have been more of it when I was growing up in schools,” June said.
“Certain kids just learn differently, and I was definitely one of those kids.”
The duo hopes the book will expose more young people to Arctic music and get them interested to learn more.
They also hope Maakusie can bring readers on more adventures in the future.
“I think that he has a whole lot that he can share through the character. We’re hoping to be able to expand that series a little bit,” June said.
“We’ve seen first-hand how music can help save lives. It literally has saved my life over and over again.”
Maakusie Loves Music will be available starting Thursday online and through Iqaluit publisher Inhabit Education Books.