Ottawa Inuit quartet heads for Norway
Performance a career breakthrough for Siqiniup Qilauta
The Ottawa-based Inuit group Siqiniup Qilauta will perform traditional Inuit songs and games next week at Norway’s Forde International Folk Festival.
This performance in front of an international audience is an exciting career breakthrough for the group’s four young singers and drummers who, until recently, were better known in Ottawa than in the North or abroad.
Emily Kattu Paniga Karpik, Tracy Aasivak Brown, Emily Arnainnuk Kotierk and Lynda Qaqasirija Brown, first came together back in 2001 through the Tungasuvvingat Inuit Youth Program at Ottawa’s community centre for Inuit.
When the young women began performing, they had mismatched amautiks, not all of them had kamiks, and they had to borrow their drums.
“When we started it was different,” says Lynda Brown, who works at TI’s head start program in Ottawa. “All of us came to learn how to throat-sing because three of us had pretty much grown up down South. We wanted to learn and explore our culture and our roots. When Emily Karpik, who is originally from Pangnirtung, joined the group, it added so much because she grew up in the North and speaks Inuktitut.”
Soon, the group came up with its name, which means the Sun’s Drum in English. This choice was influenced by the belief that good luck is on the way when the sun has a halo around it. For the new performers, this halo of good fortune would be symbolized by a drum.
Thanks to a Canada Council grant, Siqiniup Qilauta was also able to acquire matching outfits to wear while performing.
By December 2002, the group was singing at the Prime Minister’s annual Christmas party at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. During 2003, Siqiniup Qilauta continued to perform at many Ottawa events. The group also travelled to the Great Northern Arts Festival in Inuvik and the National Gathering on Aboriginal Cultures and Tourism in British Columbia.
Recently, the group’s members decided to invest more time and energy into performing. They hired an agent to work on bookings.
Tracy Brown designed a web site, now posted at www.sunsdrum.com.
A demo CD, sponsored by the Canada Council, is also in the works, so potential bookers can hear how Siqiniup Qilauta sound live.
Most of the group’s songs involve drumming. One song, which consists entirely of drumming, called the “Animal Dance,” was inspired by drum dancing from Baker Lake.
The group uses drums made in the style of the traditional drums, but they’re not made of animal skin, so they can stand up to Ottawa’s hot and humid weather.
Throatsinging, ajaaja songs and games, which are drawn from many regions of the North, are also part of Siqiniup Qilauta’s repertoire.
“That’s also how we’ve stayed together and kept fresh, by learning from different people,” Lynda says.
Looking towards a bright future with Siqiniup Qilauta, Lynda’s advice to other aspiring Inuit performers is to “be proud” and enjoy what you do.
The next few weeks’ schedule is full, says Lynda. Her sister, Tracy, is now in the Netherlands, performing with singer Lucie Idlout.
Then, the four head off to Norway, and, following that, to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation’s national healing gathering in Edmonton.