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Nimkii (Thunder) Experimental Indigenous Music: DJ Mad Eskimo

By Gloria Song on August 21, 2015

On Saturday night, the Asinabka Film & Media Arts Festival will be showcasing experimental musicians from a variety of Aboriginal backgrounds, including Melody McKiver, Yuma Hester, Madeskimo and Rise Ashen + Cynthia Pitsiulak.  If you’re an avid fan of experimental music, it’s hard to miss the strong presence of a number of Aboriginal artists who have been at the forefront of creating new and exciting works of art.  While many Canadians are already familiar with A Tribe Called Red and Tanya Tagaq, there is a whole world of experimental artists who have been pushing listeners’ pre-conceived notions of what “indigenous music” (if such a uniform concept exists) sounds like.

One of those musicians is Madeskimo. Originally from Iqaluit, Nunavut, Geronimo Inutiq, aka DJ Madeskimo, is an electronic music producer, deejay, and multimedia artist who has been based in Montreal since the 1990s. With an Inuk mother from the Baffin Island community of Clyde River and a French Canadian father, Inutiq’s childhood and adolescence was marked by many cultural influences, including his mother’s traditional Inuit background, his father’s family’s French Canadian traditions of singing and fiddling, the hiphop trends from that era, and even playing the alto saxophone in high school. As a child, his father would take him to the Museum of Modern Art as well as powwows.  He began experimenting as a teen with his father’s musical equipment as a teenager, including midi sequencers and synthesizers, creating beats for his friends and deejaying at an African bar at age 17 in Quebec.

Inutiq began to incorporate some of the traditional elements of his mother’s culture with modern electronic beats, start with a collaboration with Sylvia Cloutier, remixing her Inuktitut throat singing.  “I don’t limit myself to necessarily expressing myself through one cultural reference point,” he explained in an interview for the Silent X podcasts. “I have a variety of tools available to me and it’s nice to work with that.”

I asked him about his musical inspirations, and his responses were cautiously reflective. “I’m motivated by arbitrary subjective aesthetitcs,” he answered me through an online chat. “I don’t necessarily follow what is going on in the aboriginal scene or the popular arts and culture scene. I have my own sensibilities and music I enjoy, but outside of that I tend to want to cater to my sensibility – as opposed to wanting to fit in some cultural mold, or cater to some market.”

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Certainly DJ Madeskimo has been producing electronic music for longer than a lot of his colleagues on the scene – he was of the generation of musicians who originally shared his works on MySpace.  He has since then expanded his projects to other forms of media, including his latest media installation ARCTICNOISE, which used archival film footage and sound materials from the Isuma Archive at the National Gallery of Canada as well as other sources to compose an indigenous response to Glenn Gould’s composition “The Idea of the North”.

Saturday night will provide residents of Ottawa with a chance to experience Madeskimo’s works, along with other experimental musicians of indigenous backgrounds, a showcase that promises to be expand listeners’ perspectives. “I just know that people are capable to do so much amazing stuff,” Inutiq notes, “and the aboriginal community certainly has that strength, and we are taking our place within society, and being recognized for having strong and helpful values.”

Madeskimo will be performing the Nimkii (Thunder) Experimental Indigenous Music showcase as part of the Asinabka Film & Media Arts Festival. You can catch this event on Saturday, August 22, 2015 at 11PM at Club Saw and Saw Courtyard. Cover is $10 or pay what you can. 19+.