Very, very soon, artists from various communities in Nunavut, other circumpolar regions, and as far away as New Zealand will converge upon Iqaluit for the 2018 Alianait Festival.
“For myself, it will be my first time,” said David Kuksuk, who joined The Arviat Band five or six years ago.
The band has been around for decades, playing festivals across Nunavut and Nunavik. The festival program biography notes, “During Simon Sigjariaq and Charlie Panigoniak’s early days in music, The Arviat Band were essential in developing the unique country sound Arviat is known for.”
Add to that all-Inuktitut lyrics.
“My brothers have been together for a good 25 to 30 years.” Kuksuk said of now-bandmates John and Billy Kuksuk.
Paul K. Irksuk and Sandy Okatsiak round out the band.
“I’m excited,” said Kuksuk, who says the band plays at the community’s church, where he has also taught guitar to youth.
“It’s music that makes you happy. Music can be a lot of things. If you’re depressed or whatever – it’s stress free. Somehow, it helps.”
Iglulik’s Lazarus Qattalik played a gig in Iqaluit earlier in the year, then soon found himself on a stage in the Yukon playing with the award-winning Quantum Tangle and Leela Gilday. This will be his first Alianait Festival. He’s looking forward to seeing all the artists, and playing music, he says, “is magic.”
For executive director Heather Daley this festival is magic for a couple of reasons. After this year’s four-day show, she passes on the reigns to a new generation of organizers. And she’s leaving quite the organization. Alianait has a reputation, and is now being sought out.
“One thing I’m noticing is we’re really on the map, on the world stage. This year, for example, out of the blue the new festival director and chair of the board for this amazing festival in northern Norway called Riddu Riddu, they’re coming to our festival to look for talent for their festival in 2019,” Daley said.
There are others scouts – from Montreal, from Greenland – and musicians from across the world applying to play at Alianait.
“I didn’t go after them. I think that’s a big statement,” she said.
“And I’m very excited about this festival’s line-up. It’s very strong – not just Inuit but also Indigenous-focused.”
Another very important focus of Alianait is to provide an opportunity for emerging artists – such as Qattalik and Leetia Kalluk of Arctic Bay – to be on the same stage as well-known artists.
“Like Nanook, for example, the most popular band from Greenland,” she said.
Qattalik, bandmate Allan Kangok and Kalluk will take part in this year’s collaborative effort, led by Sylvia Cloutier.
“It’s a unique special thing that we do every year. They’re going to get to workshop together with the Maori trio from New Zealand, with the Australians, with Cris Derksen … Some amazing, amazing Indigenous performers from different parts of the country and the world and then perform together on closing night,” Daley said.
“Let the magic begin.”
The festival runs June 29 to July 2.
See the schedule here.