The nominations for the 2018 Juno Awards are out, and Nunavut performers have made a splash across genres.
All the hard work they’ve dedicated to their musical and cultural passions means being nominated for Juno Awards is all the sweeter, say Nancy Mike and Kelly Fraser.
Mike and her bandmates of The Jerry Cans – Andrew Morrison, Gina Burgess, Brendan Doherty and Steve Rigby – are nominated for Breakthrough Group of the Year and Contemporary Roots Album of the Year for 2017’s Inuusiq/Life.
“We’re very, very excited. We did not expect this coming at all. We appreciate it a lot more because we do a lot of work trying to get funding, trying to make everything happen smoothly in terms of touring, in terms of recording, or even songwriting,” said Mike, adding, “Andrew and I do most of the songwriting and it is very, very personal. Especially that most of our songs are written in Inuktitut. That’s something I’m really proud of. I hope that everyone else feels that pride, as well, in this Juno nomination.”
The Jerry Cans have transitioned over the last year to full-time musicians, touring extensively in Canada and internationally. Mike, Morrison and Rigby founded recording label Aakuluk Music in late 2016, along with releasing the album that jettisoned them into the limelight.
Aakuluk Music also launched the first Nunavut Music Week, bringing together Nunavut musicians and southern industry professionals in Iqaluit in late 2017. Nunavut music made big headlines outside the territory as a result.
“It’s been pretty crazy,” said Mike. “But it’s been awesome.”
Sanikiluaq’s young pop star, songwriter and activist Kelly Fraser is up for Indigenous Music Album of the Year with her second release titled Sedna.
Fraser was about to set off in her car when she received a text: ‘OMG Kelly, congratulations on the Juno nomination.’
“I gasped and I started crying and screaming, because, all my hard work … I felt it was starting to pay off. Being nominated is a win in itself, and gives me inspiration to keep going,” she said.
“For people to know about Inuit, to know about our struggles in my music is the number one thing I wanted people to hear. Secondly, I want Inuit to feel proud that we are very resilient people and we have a strong culture and language that will never die.”
Fraser has not yet made the move to full-time musician, though she’s gearing up to do so. Meanwhile she’s intent on building up Inuit culture by teaching about it at schools in the nation’s capital via the Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre, and in other venues through Family Services. She also teaches Inuktitut.
“This year, in 2018, I’ve been getting a lot of very good offers (to perform) and it’s only February now, so the offers will only come in more. I’m very grateful of all the support I’ve received for me to reach a point where I could possibly live off music entirely.”
As is usual for Fraser, she thanked everyone she could think of for their support, and first on the list are always her friend/producer Thor Simonsen and her fans.
“This will only help pave a road for many future Inuit artists that will continue to represent us and keep that pride in our communities,” she said.
To Inuit youth, Fraser says: “Reach high to the stars. You can actually reach them.”
Tanya Tagaq of Cambridge Bay is up for Alternative Album of the Year for Retribution, the album that earned her a place on the shortlist for a Polaris Prize for a second time. She won the Polaris in 2015.
Tagaq has previously been nominated for Junos, taking home Aboriginal Recording of the Year for Animism in 2015.
She could not be reached for comment.
The televised Juno Awards take place in Vancouver March 25.