We’re not sure if there is a category in the Guiness Book of World Records for “northernmost record label,” but if so, we’re betting on Aakuluk Music, Nunavut’s first record label, as taking the prize.
Its creation has just been announced, and its first release (on Nov. 4) will be Inuusiq/Life, the third album from Iqaluit-based roots quintet The Jerry Cans.
A label press release received yesterday states that “The mission of Aakuluk Music is to help other Inuit musicians produce and promote their music. The company will help record, market, and distribute Inuktitut music nationally and internationally now, and for future generations of Inuit musicians.
Aakuluk Music seeks to build hope through music and community, to encourage youth, and contribute to the preservation of the territory’s distinct culture. The label was founded by Andrew Morrison, Nancy Mike and Steve Rigby of The Jerry Cans.”
The release also notes that "Iqaluit is a place rich in musical culture and talent but bereft of music business infrastructure. There are no recording studios. There is no territorial music organization supporting export initiatives and organizing showcases. There are no booking agents, no music critics. But now, there is a music label, and that’s a start."
Inuusiq/Life was recorded in Toronto earlier this year at The Woodshed, Blue Rodeo's studio. It was produced by multiple Juno Award winner Michael Phillip Wojewoda (Buffy Sainte-Marie, Blue Rodeo). This scribe was fortunate enough to observe a session, and can attest to both the warm vibe in the room and Wojewoda's enthusiasm for the project.
All the songs on the new CD are in Inuktitut, except for an English version of "Northern Lights" that is the first single.
The Jerry Cans have earned praise for a high-energy and eclectic roots-based sound that has elicited comparisons to the likes of The Pogues and Spirit Of The West. Their frontman is singer/songwriter Andrew Morrison, a former Northern CBC Radio producer who’s lived in Iqaluit almost all his life.
A key component to their style is the throat singing and accordion playing of Nancy Mike, the only Inuk member of the group (she and Morrison are married). Rounding out the group are violinist Gina Burgess, bassist Brendan Doherty and drummer Steve Rigby.
The band has toured in Greenland, performed at WOMAD events in Australia and New Zealand, and played major festivals across southern Canada, from the Maritimes to British Columbia. Between festivals the band’s played clubs and special events from Toronto to Sydney and from Ottawa to Nome, Alaska.
The Jerry Cans launch the new album with a hometown show in Iqaluit on Nov. 12, followed by gigs in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Halifax, and St. John’s. Details here.