If you walk past Rankin Inlet’s rec hall late at night you might notice the faint rumble of a rhythm which has a slight Credence Clearwater Revival tinge to it.
But listen a little closer and you’ll hear that the lyrics are being sung in Inuktitut not English. Those who remember the 90s might even recognize some of the words which were first penned by friends Leo Subgut and Noah Tiktak back when they had more hair and thinner waistlines.
With most members except for their 39-year-old drummer well into their 50s, Rankin Inlet’s Katuutiit may not be the youngest band in town. But nearly 10 years since they last played together the gang, who once toured Nunavut together on a regular basis, are jamming again and eyeing up the chance to perform to a new younger audience.
“Last year I started calling the boys again and said come on boys we’re still alive. We can go this. Let’s reunite. So we’re back together again,” said founding member Leo Subgut.
Katuutiit, which is the Inuktitut plural for the sticks used to beat a traditional drum, first formed when Tiktak noticed Subgut playing guitar at the community’s square dances in the early 80s.
“ I envied the music he played,” said Tiktak. “He made people happy.”
So one day Tiktak invited him over to his house for a jam session
“I had a keyboard and I said let’s put something together. And here we are.”
The story isn’t really as straightforward as Tiktak lets on. In the early days of playing together, Subgut and Tiktak would brainstorm about the kinds of music people wanted to hear. Unlike most live music in town at the time – mostly square dancing or traditional Inuit music – Subgut and Tiktak were into the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and of course CCR. However they waned to write lyrics which Inuit can relate to, which first and foremost, meant singing in Inuktitut.
“It’s very important to keep langue alive because it seems to be depleting very fast region by region,” said Subgut.
“If we’re singing in Inuktitut, it’s one of the tools we can use to keep it alive.”
The two enjoyed playing and writing songs together as two piece and one point added two female vocalists to the band. But after a few years. Katuutiit went on hiatus.
It wasn’t until a decade later, in December of 1994, that the two decided to get back together. This time they added the rhythm section which rounds out the group to this day.
The included Luke Anglidik on bass/keys, John Taipana, on rhythm guitar and Paliak Kaput the young drummer, who had started playing square dances when he was just 9-years-old.
“Everyone knew him as the little drummer boy,” Anglidik told Kivalliq News ahead of a jam session.
The new line-up allowed the band to develop the fuller rock and roll sound that would make them popular across Nunavut. From the mid 90s to the early 2000s Katuutiit played shows in Arivat, Northern Quebec, Cambridge Bay, Baker Lake, Coral Harbour, Chesterfied Inlet, Gjoa Haven, Kugluktuk and even Yellowknife’s Folk on The Rocks festival. Subgut said the band loved being able to travel the North and share their music with people.
“Except for that time in Gjoa Haven because we were gone for 10 days and everyone ended up getting homesick.”
The band even went to Yellowknife to record their only ever album, a seven song EP. The album includes the fan favourite, Aullaarumannarmat, which Subgut says is essentially a song about going out on the land.
“It’s about when you’re stuck in a the community for a long cold year, spring comes and everyone wants to go out fishing and hunting.”
After about 10 years together 5-member iteration of Katuutiit went their separate ways again. The band attributed the break-up to their growing list of responsibilities parents and grandparents. Now that they are playing together again, the band is hoping social media will allow their music to reach a new audience.
“Back then we only had radio stations. So the way I marketed our band is I brought our CD to our radio station here and I sent one to CBC Iqaluit and CBC in Northern Quebec,” said Tiktak.
Sure enough since they started playing together again their music has started to see some traction on Facebook. Titktak said he saw a video being shared around of a young boy learning to play one of their songs on the keyboard.
And it was a recording of the band playing last year’s Christmas concert in Rankin shared on Faceook that got Katuutiit its first major gig since reuniting.
Tiktak said organizers of Arviat’s Inumariit festival approached the band to play this summer after seeing the video online. The turn of events was fitting given that Inumariit was the first festival the band ever played as five piece back in the 90s.
It may be familiar territory but this time the boys have no plans of breaking up the band again.
“I want to keep going as long as I can play,” said Tiktak.