Many Canadians don’t get the chance to visit the faraway territories of Canada’s North. Yet Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and Yukon are all home to some of the most interesting and creative artists who themselves often do not get a chance to go “down south.”
The good news is that soon residents of Ottawa will have a chance to be immersed in northern culture thanks to the touring show From the North, which comes to Ottawa on November 4. The show consists of a gala performance, an afternoon festival and a touring visual arts exhibit, all featuring performers and artists from the three territories.
The evening performances will include artists like IVA, Riit, Juno Award winners Quantum Tangle, Yukon dance group Borealis Soul, and will include throat singing, hip hop dance, and traditional drumming infused with electronica. The festival will feature interactive opportunities to learn about northern cultural traditions, with demonstrations of sculpting, storytelling, and northern sports like the One-Foot Kick or the Knuckle Hop.
To get the artist’s perspective, I connected with Riit, an Inuit musician signed on to Nunavut’s first record label Aakuluk Music, right after she participated in the very first Nunavut Music Week in Iqaluit – where a snowstorm and resulting power outage had shut down some of the planned performances. Despite this setback, northerners displayed their characteristic resourcefulness and threw an epic impromptu house show featuring some of Nunavut’s biggest musicians: Trade-Offs, Northern Haze, the Jerry Cans, Riit and Avery – all in the Jerry Cans’ drummer’s living room.
“It was so much fun,” Riit told me over the phone from her home community Pangnirtung, Nunavut. “I did not expect it to be that packed or crazy. People started rolling in… It was really fun.”
Stories like this demonstrate the lively arts culture that exists in thorth, but southern Canadians rarely get to experience it. “Before Aakuluk Music, it was really hard to get your name out there,” Riit explained. I asked her why she agreed to be part of From the North. “It’s very important for me to showcase our culture and to showcase music in my mother tongue,” responded Riit, who sings in Inuktitut. “So that’s the biggest reason: to keep educating other Canadians.” In addition, Riit looks forward to touring with other northern artists and getting to know them, as northerners themselves don’t often get the chance to visit other territories.
“I’d like to see more musicians touring and making music in Inuktitut. Even if it’s not in Inuktitut, just for them to get out there and take whatever opportunities that they can get.”
It’s in this way that From the North offers a fantastic opportunity to learn about the diverse cultures of Canada’s North and to discover northern artists even if you can’t visit up north yourself. It’s also an important step towards supporting and growing the arts scene in the North.
I asked Riit what she’d love to see happen with northern music in the future. “I’d like to see more musicians touring and making music in Inuktitut,” she said. “Even if it’s not in Inuktitut, just for them to get out there and take whatever opportunities that they can get. There’s so many talented musicians in Nunavut, but like I said, it’s hard to get your name out there when the rest of Canada doesn’t really know that Nunavut exists, or where it is, or what is going on here.”
From the North comes to Ottawa on Saturday, November 4. Catch the festival portion at the Museum of Nature from 11am to 2pm, and catch the performances at La Nouvelle Scène (333 King Edward Avenue) at 7:30pm. For tickets and for more information, visit the website: north150nord.ca.