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ARCHIVED - Aboriginal Sound Recordings: Music and Song

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The Inuit

Contemporary Music

Contemporary musical influences have predominantly been country and traditional folk styles from the British Isles, introduced through trade in the late 1800s. At the same time, the Inuit adopted new instruments such as squeeze-box accordions, fiddles and jew's-harps (jaw harps), along with new song forms. Inuit brass bands emerged around the 1900s.

Radio reached the Arctic not long after its introduction in the rest of North America. It brought country-and-western music and Christian hymns that proved very popular. Rock, hip-hop and reggae influences have now found their way into Inuit music.

But radio also helped to conserve traditional music. CBC Northern Service provided a unique opportunity for Inuit and other musicians from the region to record their music exclusively for an Arctic audience.

Hudson's Bay regional artists like Morley Loon [www.brandonu.ca/Library/cjns/8.2/lintell.pdf] (accessed May 28, 2007) and pioneering artists from Quebec such as Philippe McKenzie inspired other Aboriginal artists. Kashtin, an Innu folk-rock duo, had considerable success in the 1980s and 1990s, recording in Innu.

The Inuit singer Susan Aglukark [www.susanaglukark.com] (accessed May 27, 2007) is a major artist, with considerable success in mainstream music. She was born in a traditional Inuit community and first began recording with her parents. Aglukark's first CBC Records release was a cassette recording that was heard by EMI Music Canada president Deane Cameron, who signed the singer to his label. She has recorded seven albums since 1990 and earned three Juno Awards, including two wins in the Aboriginal Music category. Her 1995 album, This Child, went triple platinum in Canada. She remains the most commercially successful recording artist to emerge from Canada's North.

Modern throat singer Tanya Tagaq Gillis [www.tanyatagaq.com/] (accessed May 28, 2007) joined Icelandic singer Björk on the latter's 2001 world tour. She has also collaborated with the Kronos String Quartet.