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One-week creative hub has Nunavut Hitmakerz artists excited

Label hopes for dynamic week of creative collaboration
The Hitmakerz Compound in Ottawa is expected to be the home of six Inuit artists working together on music for a week in September. Photo courtesy of Thor Simonsen The Hitmakerz ᑲᑎᙵᓂᐅᔪᖅ ᐋᑐᕚᒥ ᓂᕆᐅᒋᔭᐅᕗᖅ ᐊᖏᕐᕋᕆᔭᐅᓂᐊᕐᓂᖓᓂ 6−ᓂ ᐃᓄᖕᓄᑦ ᓴᓇᐅᒐᓕᕆᔨᐅᔪᓄᑦ ᐱᓕᕆᖃᑎᒌᒃᑐᓂ ᓂᔾᔮᑎᑦᑎᓂᕐᒥ ᐱᓇᓱᐊᕈᓯᕐᒥ ᓯᑎᐱᕆᒥ .

Hitmakerz, a full-service record label based in Nunavut, is planning to host a week-long professional development event at a house in Ottawa starting Sept. 2, featuring a number of Northern artists such as Joey Nowyuk, Shauna Seeteenak, Jacob Okatisak, Angela Amarualik, Aocelyn (Jocelyn Arreak) and Brenda Montana.

Dubbed the Hitmakerz Compound, it will run from Sept. 2 to 9, with separate songwriting and music production workshops taking place on Sept. 6, 10, and 11. The latter is open to any Ottawa-based artists with over two years songwriting experience for a fee.

Chris Birkett and Dale Penner will instruct — the former having previously worked with Led Zeppelin, Buffy Sainte-Marie, among many others. The latter’s list of producer credits include Econoline Crush, Nickelback and more.

The Iqaluit-based label hopes to showcase and help further develop the careers and bodies of work of artists under its wing, with daily industry training and coaching to take place at the house for the artists attending.

Nunavut speed-rapper Hyper-T, Ottawa-based producer Tev Bourque and Hitmakerz COO and performance coach Sarah Elaine McLay are also expected to work with the artists as producers.

This initiative came when Hitmakerz had a lot of activity happening at once and saw an opportunity to host everything at the same time in the same space.

“Part of the reason why we did it is to make it better than the sum of its parts. We want to have a lot of cross-pollinating ideas and random opportunities that lead to new opportunities,” said Thor Simonsen, CEO of Hitmakerz.

Four of the artists — Nowyuk, Okatisak, Montana and Amarualik — will work on writing, recording and producing their upcoming albums, while Aocelyn and Seeteenak are slated to record music videos for upcoming singles and demos for their next albums.

Being able to network in a setting full of industry professionals has sparked excitement among the artists.

“It’s such a great opportunity to showcase what I have and to show the people what I can do,” said Arviat’s Jacob Okatisak, an instrumentalist, rapper and hip-hop artist.

Nowyuk, a Pangnirtung-based indie rocker, added, “I’m pretty excited about this. I’ve never been in anything like this before, so I’m really looking forward to it.”

This is Nowyuk’s first time going south since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

“I’m excited to meet up with everyone there,” he said.

It has been quite a busy last few years for Seeteenak, an Iqaluit-based pop artist and rapper, originally from Baker Lake. So having some time dedicated to just making music is something she’s eager to do.

“I’m really excited to have time just for music. The only time we have met together was last year in October,” she said, “It was only for one day, but this time it’s going to be for a whole week, which I’m really excited for because it’s time for us to just make music, connect and talk to each other.”

Seeteenak’s new album Therapy Sessions was released on Aug. 27.

This year, Nowyuk dropped his debut album Tumitit, which garnered a win at the Indigenous Music Awards.

He hopes to get some new projects off started while in Ottawa.

For Okatisak it presents a great opportunity to meet some of his inspirations.

“I’m also excited to be working with another (producer), (Hyper-T), he’s another creator; the CEO of Hyper Inuk Music is one of my biggest inspirations for music. I’m excited to be working with lots of new people,” said Okatisak.

Simonsen highlighted that it’s a great opportunity to connect with music professionals the Nunavut artists otherwise would not have been able to access.

“Just exposing our artists as well to southern music industry professionals, that’s something that can be hard to come by in Nunavut,” he said.

One of the biggest factors in hosting the Hitmakerz Compound, Simonsen said, was space, something that comes at a premium in Nunavut.

He admitted that this is the first time the company is trying something like this and he hopes to build on the spontaneous opportunities that will present themselves by rallying this much creative energy in one place.

“We’re not exactly sure what’s going to come out of it, but we’re super excited to try it,” Simonsen said.