Old and new combines at Aqpik Jam
Puvirnituq rappers bring first Nunavik rap to annual music bash
Every night for four nights last week more than 500 people packed into Kuujjuaq’s Katittavik Town Hall for music and entertainment at the Aqpik Jam music festival.
Since 1996, the annual event – timed to coincide with the appearance of cloudberries, or aqpik – celebrates the end of summer with a feast of northern talent.
Traditional music met newer styles this year, as young throatsingers shared a stage with Angava, the local heavy metal band, and accordionists appeared with rap groups.
For Juanasi Qamaluk, 19, the festival was an opportunity for his brand new band, 1st NR, which stands for “First Nunavik Rap”, to perform for an audience outside of Puvirnituq, his hometown, at a festival that he said was “pretty damn good.”
First NR got started at a freestyle competition in the Purvirnituq high school gym last December, when Moses Surusilak, 27, was performing with Harry Alasuak, 18 and a local DJ, singing about anything and everything.
“They called me because I was good at lip-synching Eminem and 50 Cent,” Qamaluk said. By the end of January, 16-year-old Troy Uqaituk had joined the trio and they were practicing fresh songs, in English and Inuttitut, every week at Surusilak’s house.
Their show – which was their third ever – grabbed a lot of attention at the festival. The rap group Nuuk Posse, which had traveled all the way from Greenland for the party, caught 1st NR’s show and later made an invitation to the group to appear in a Greenland rap music festival.
After three of his own performances, Qamaluk said his musical highlight was seeing Beatrice Deer, the Quaqtaq singer whose music is a staple of Nunavik radio. She performed folksy acoustic pop melodies written by her husband, Charlie Keelan of Kangiqsualujjuaq.
Claude Mackenzie, formerly of Kashtin, also took the stage. Like his old partner Florent Vollant, Claude has moved on to a solo career with songs of his own, which the Nunavik public seemed to enjoy just as much as the Kashtin classics.
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An Abba tribute band from Calgary was one of few acts from the South.
Nunavik’s very first known rappers, named “1st NR”, for “First Nunavik Rappers”, were a hit with the young crowd. The young rappers, from Puvirnituq, are (from left to right): Harry Alasuak, Troy Uqaituk, Juanasi Qumaluk and Moses Surusilak.
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As part of the Kuujjuaq Youth Group, two young throat singers, Katherine and Cynthia Gaudreault-Snowball, aged 12 and 13, respectively, perform the traditional art that has been passed down through generations of Inuit women.
Greenlandic soft rock band, Nuutit, played two successful sets, in spite of some difficulty running European equipment on a North American electrical current.
Drummer Nino Fencker said his band felt right at home in a place where the language and culture are so similar.
“It felt like we were visiting some relatives, we had not seen for many years,” he said in an email from Nuuk. “We would love to come back very soon, and we are already looking forward to that day!”
In addition to music, Kuujjuammiut were also treated to kayak races, aqpik picking contests, and a giant feast on Friday, to which a group of Naskapis contributed some smoked goose they had made in a teepee.
This year, Joana Koneak was the winner of a suvalik-making competition – having made the most delicious mixture of misiraq (seal or whale oil), suvak (fish eggs), aqpiks and blackberries.