Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Despite the fact that it's a huge part of our country, most of us don't have clue about the Arctic, me included. I know it's cold and all that, but imagine if 95 per cent of Americans had never been to, say, Texas. There's lots to discover, and we're on a pretty steep learning curve.

Thankfully, we have Iqaluit-based folk-rockers The Jerry Cans to guide us along. But the award-winning group isn't going to spoon-feed us, the majority of their singing is in Inuktitut, something lead vocalist Andrew Morrison learned as an adult, by the way. There's throat singing from Nancy Mike, traditional but fit into the context of the group's lively tunes, heavily influenced by Celtic folk sounds, which it turns out have been popular in that area as well. So basically you get the band Great Big North.

I joke, but The Jerry Cans have built an exciting live reputation, largely because these are upbeat, energetic and entertaining songs, and while the words may be different to our ears, the music is that to which Canadians coast to coast (to coast) always respond with vigor. Inuktitut is a rhythmic language that's interesting to follow, and the band even provides some basic words to listen for in the liner notes to pick up a lesson or two. It's fun! But mostly, you have fiddle tunes, accordion numbers, thumping, bass-heavy rabble-rousing songs that fit in any concert hall or folk club. Fit? No, more like take over. Then there's Mike's throat singing, which is more like another instrument taking solos in the band's context. All those hot-shot producers looking for ambiance and different sounds to dazzle, well here's one of the world's all-natural and unique forms of communication, adding so much more than some concocted layer of beats.

Just when I thought I was starting to learn some words, I realized Morrison had switched to English for the first time. The song Ukiuq has been translated into Northern Lights, and included twice on the disc, but not to push their way onto radio or because of any pressure to sell out. After all, the band now owns their own label, Nunavut's very first, so they are the boss. It's to give a little more sense of what Iqaluit is like, as it includes lyrics about the area's beauty and ability to lure a certain kind of person. The Jerry Cans are making the Arctic hot.

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