It was the early seventies in Igloolik, a tiny Canadian Arctic hamlet with a population of about 1000, when a group of young Inuit men began learning and playing some real, gritty rock and roll music. The self-taught musicians - Kolitalik Inukshuk, Naisana Qamaniq, James Ungalaq, Elijah Kunnuk, and John Inooya - played with various other bands before coming together to form their own ensemble in 1984, called Northern Haze. Jamming at first on homemade guitars and a plastic Disney drum set, the band gained local recognition while performing at community dances in their hometown.
In 1985, Northern Haze released their first record, the self-titled Northern Haze, through the CBC. All of the original music featured lyrics in Inuktitut, making this the first Indigenous-language rock album recorded in North America. Rousing guitar riffs reminiscent of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin mix with traditional Inuit songs and stories to make a sound that is uniquely theirs, and a special representation of Canada’s far North.
After the release of the record, Northern Haze were invited to perform at large festivals across the country, including Folk on the Rocks in Yellowknife and the 1986 Expo in Vancouver. They also continued to perform in Northern communities, including their hometown of Igloolik.
Northern Haze was hit with a double bout of tragedy in 2007, when Elijah passed away that year from cancer, and Kolitalik was murdered just a few days later.
The band’s three remaining members - James, John, and Naisana - continue to play and record music, with the addition of new bassist, Derek Aqqiaruq. Northern Haze recorded three new songs in 2010, and played a show every night at The Snow Festival in Puvirnituq, Nunavik in 2011. Most recently, Northern Haze released Sinaaktuq (2012) with the help of producer Jason Flowers, a record that contains all of their recordings, from the eighties into the 2000’s.
Northern Haze has recently signed to Aakuluk Music, Nunavut’s first and only record label, and in late 2018 released Siqinnaarut, Northern Haze’s first new recording since the 80s, the band delivers one of the most gloriously improbable and uncommonly special releases of the year. From the opening gut-rattling growl of “Inuk” to the final power chords of “Inuusivut II,” Siqinnaarutis a thrilling, riff-heavy treasure.
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