Susan Aglukark is an artist that bridges two worlds. On her new album This Child, the first she has recorded for EMI Music Canada, she intertwines traditional Inuk chants with contemporary pop melodies. While Susan's music embraces the time-honoured rituals and values of her Inuit forefathers, she is also not afraid to face the tough social realities of life in today's far North. Her clear warm voice touches listeners with sensitive message-laden songs, sung in English as well as her native tongue Inuktitut.
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This Child was produced by Chad Irschick (The Rankin Family), and features 11 songs, the majority co-writtten by Susan. The first single and video was "O Siem", the title being an Indian exclamation of joy at seeing friends and family. Susan explains: "a line in the song 'siem o siyeya', means all peoples, all cultures and races, all people rich and poor. The song talks about watching the walls come tumbling down, and by that, I mean the walls of racism and prejudice, of hate and anger.
"Hina Na Ho (Celebration)" is a tale of surviving a winter, written by John Landry (an aboriginal songwriter from the Western Arctic), Susan and Chad Irschick. "It presented an amazing visual for me" says Susan. "In the song, we were trying to say we survived a winter, another season of our own personal battles, as well as the battles with, and within different cultures. It also talks about The Creator, because aboriginal people have great respect for the creator of the land".
In the song "Shamaya" Susan documents the traditions of the hunt, an important part of Arctic life. "I was home last Christmas, and my great uncle told the story of Shamaya. Historically, any man in my dad's family, any man who catches the five biggest sea mammals (such as polar bear, narwhale and seal) sings Shamaya" in celebration. Because I am not male, and cannot hunt the five sea mammals, I cannot sing the song, but I wanted to tell the story of Shamaya. Shamaya is the thread that weaves together centuries of storytelling. It is how each hunter documents the hunt. It is a rite of passage. You learn to hunt from need, not for pure desire. As good as you might get as a hunter, you should never get proud or greedy.
A song that is especially close to Susan's heart is "Kathy I". The song was written in honour of her cousin and best friend Kathy, who passed away, and was co-written with Kelita Haverland. The title track, "This Child" deals with the tragedy of suicide. It was written to accompany the film broadcast of "Trial At Fortitude Bay", which aired in Canada on CBC-TV in December 1994. "Trial At Fortitude Bay" tells the powerful story of the southern white legal system attempting to impose their laws and justice on a Northern Inuit community.
Born in Churchill Manitoba, 28 years ago, Susan moved around the Northwest Territories for the first twelve years of her life with her father, (a Pentecostal minister), mother and seven brothers and sisters. They eventually settled in Arviat, NWT., a community of 1,300 people on the northwest shore of Hudson Bay. After completing high school, she moved to Ottawa, where she was employed by the Canadian Department of Indian & Northern Affairs as a linguist. Susan later accepted the position of Executive Assistant to the political lobby group, Inuit Tapirisat (Brotherhood) Of Canada. Shortly after taking this position, her musical career began to take off.
The three short years since Susan Aglukark gave her first live performance at a festival in her home town of Arviat N.W.T., have been remarkable ones. First CBC radio included her in a compilation of Eastern Arctic performers and writers, which due to extraordinary demand, Susan independently released as "Dreams For You". The video "Searching" followed, which garnered a MuchMusic award for outstanding cinematography.
In 1992 Susan released her first independent recording Arctic Rose, which met with tremendous critical and commercial acclaim in the North. In 1993 Susan signed a worldwide recording contract with EMI Music Canada. EMI released Susan's independent Christmas album in December 1993, featuring the single "Little Toy Trains" and followed with a re-released version of Arctic Rose in April 1994. The first single and video "Song Of The Land", as well as the second successful single "Still Running" were specially re-recorded for the EMI release.
Susan is no stranger to Canadian television and radio audiences, having appeared on The Journal, MuchMusic, Musique Plus, and The Rita MacNeil Show, as well as several appearances on CBC Radio's highly rated "Morningside" and "Swinging On A Star".
Numerous interviews and profile pieces have appeared in such prestigious publications as Saturday Night Magazine, and The New York Times. In 1993, Maclean's Magazine named Susan on of "Canadas 100 Leaders To Watch For", as well as Up Here Magazine named her "Northerner Of The Year". Susan has performed twice for HRH Queen Elizabeth at 1992's Canada 125 celebrations, and at 1994's Commonwealth Games Gala, as well as for Canadian Prime Ministers, Mulroney and Cretien. Susan was also honoured with the first ever Aboriginal Achievement Award in the Arts & Entertainment field in 1994. Susan received her first music industry award in September 1994, as the Canadian Country Music Association awarded her the Vista Rising Star Award.
Susan continues to maintain a busy performance and speaking schedule. During the past three years, she has performed numerous public concerts across Canada as well as private performances. In addition to her musical activities, Susan is the official Spokesperson for the North West Territories - Economic Development & Tourism/Arts & Crafts, as well as the National Spokesperson for the Aboriginal Division Of The National Alcohol And Drug Prevention Programme (RCMP 1994-1995).
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