Playlist | Canada & Greenland

The Sound of the Inuit

Raucous vocals, nature-loving lyrics, love songs or simply some proper rock: the Inuit playlist by Canadian musician Elisapie Isaac
A woman with large red earrings looks into the camera

Musician Elisapie Isaac

The dog team

Etulu was so Rock n Roll. With his rough style and the way he sings, Etulu doesn't sugarcoat anything. The way he tells his stories reminds me a little of Johnny Cash.  "You were once an Inuit, a strong being, what happened to you?", he says in "Qimusipakkaluaravit". Etulu asks what remains of our roots, of the once fearless people of the hunters who defied all adversity with their dogsleds. Where has our courage and bravery gone?

Etulu Etidloie “Qimusipakkaluaravit”, 1978, reissued 2023


People of the ice

With his special country style and his stories about the Inuit and the joys of life, Charlie Adams and his band Sikumiut represented our people on the world stage of pop. This song, which is named after the band, is about young people in the so-called "residential schools", Christian boarding schools, indigenous children in Canada were sent to in order to separate them from their families and their culture, and where many were brutally abused and died. The young people found some solace in rock 'n' roll. They used to get together, have parties and play rock n roll. It's a light-hearted, fun song: "We're gonna get together and have a party, come on everybody, it's time!"

Sikumiut – “Sikumiut”, early 1970s, reissued 2016


I Tried Hard/I Keep Trying

My uncle George Kakayuk was the lead singer of Sugluk, a rock band from Salluit, Québec, and as a young girl I was even allowed on stage with them. In "Ajuinnarasuarsunga", a love song without any poetry, my uncle's despair is palpable. He talks about how he, the poor soul, has nothing now that his love is gone. But even though she has left him, the connection remains. For all its sadness, I also find the song very beautiful, because Inuit men generally don't show their vulnerability. So it's about an Inuk wanting to say how he really feels.

Sugluk – “Ajuinnarasuarsunga”, 1975, reissued 2016


Seal Hunt

Pamuya, founded in 1995 in Anchorage, Alaska, wonderfully combine traditional Inuit sounds and songs with elements of funk, soul, jazz and gospe and they are great performers. Some of their lyrics deal with myths, such as stories about animals, eagles, ravens, killer whales and wolves, with which various clans identify. They sing in English and in a dialect that I don't understand. They are often very old forms of Alaskan Inuit songs; in addition to guitar, keyboard and drums, they use traditional instruments such as the Cauyaq drum.

Pamyua – Seal Hunt (Version A) 2012


You are so loving

I really discovered Rasmus Lyberth this year. I have been to Greenland many times and have only now realized that he is not only a singer, but also a prominent actor and poet, a multi-talent, something like the Leonard Cohen of Greenland. I am moved by the way he sings about his connection and love for his homeland in an elegiac way, sometimes with a jazz band, sometimes in a pop song style. I love his sensual passionate voice.

Rasmus Lyberth – “Asanaqigavit”/“Du er Så Kærlig”, 2006



Sume, a sensation in the 1970s, are probably the best-known rock band in Greenland and also the most politically committed on the island, which is self-governing but belongs to Denmark. there was a strong danish influence to dominate the Inuit. When Some use Inuit motifs, they exemplify the desire of many Greenlanders to preserve their cultural and linguistic independence.  "Spring is coming", it says in "Upernaaq", "it's getting warmer, I know it's getting better, things are getting better, I know it. There is the sun alone in the sky I'll be there from now on.”

Sume – “Upernaaq” („Spring“)  1973, on CD 1988


Silent Inuit

Willi Thrasher does not sing in Inuktitut because he lost his language when he was sent to boarding school. In "Silent Inuit", however, a girl's voice can be heard in the background, translating simultaneously from English. The song is about the suffering and homelessness of an Inuk who comes to the big city. He "travels with the wind, sleeps by the moon, dreams of a land where young men can be. The land of the midnight sun." Thrasher had a particularly strong influence on me in my development as a singer-songwriter; I kept listening to his music on the radio. At some point I got to know him and eventually covered his song "Wolves Don't Live By The Rules".

Willie Thrasher – Silent Inuit, 1981



Nive Nielsen, born in 1979 in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, combines influences from folk and indie music, with a dreamy, melancholy mood running through her songs. Her first album was co-produced by John Parish, known for his collaboration with PJ Harvey. "Tulugaq" means raven, and in the song she sings about how the bird hovers over the mountain ranges and she imagines being with it.

Nive Nielsen & The Deer Children – “Tulugaq“, 2015


Beautiful Light

The young Canadian singer-songwriter, who made her debut in 2017, sounds similarly melancholic to Nive Nielsen, but more poppy.  Riit combines a soft electronic sound with catchy and sometimes anthemic melodies. "Quamajuapik" means beautiful light. It's about connecting with someone through their inner glow. There is not much lyrics to this song and is very slow.

Riit – “Quamajuapik”, 2019


The two of us

Northern Haze a rock band from Igloolik in the far north of Canada released their first Album in 1985. "Uvaguk" is another declaration of love to the indigenous community and their land. The song is about friendship - and how we have to stick together. When I heard it for the first time, it took me back to my childhood.

Northern Haze – “Uvaguk” (“The two of us”)  1986