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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 29, 2003 - Issue 101


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Lucie Idlout Turns Rock Into Milestones

by Jane George Nunatsiaq News
credits: Photo by Clint Adams Smith

Lucie Idlout -  Photo by Clint Adams SmithIt's hard not to recognize Lucie Idlout or her music.

But this doesn't bother the rising Inuk rock singer, who's been nominated for two prestigious Canadian aboriginal music awards: Best Female Artist and Best Rock Album. She also shares a nomination for Best Single Song, with the True Rez Crew.

Winners will be announced Nov. 28, at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, to be held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. She's the only Inuk to be nominated this year.

Born in Iqaluit but now living in Toronto, Idlout says she's happy when she visits her home town, where people rush up to tell her how much they like her music.

Idlout can be seen every Thursday night across Canada as host of Buffalo Tracks, APTN's talk and music show. She's also known for her driving straight-ahead rock music - music that's attracting a lot of attention.

Idlout is the first aboriginal woman to see an album receive a nomination in the rock category within the five-year history of the aboriginal music awards.

"If I walked away with the rock award, that would be a killer," Idlout said in a telephone interview from her home in Toronto.

Her CD is called E 5-770: My Mother's Name, distributed by Arbor Records. Every track on the CD was written in Iqaluit.

"Each song is a story based in on an experience of my own, something I learned or something I've seen," Idlout says.

But Idlout doesn't see herself writing about Inuit traditional life. She's doesn't see herself as a traditionalist, and she doesn't want to be considered as an Inuk "ambassador," even if she's proud of her heritage, and she says her music isn't intended to isolate or alienate anyone.

"People think we're stuck in the Stone Age," Idlout says. "We're not stuck in a rut… we don't have to be pigeonholed."

Idlout doesn't want to limit herself to just music and broadcasting.

Last winter, Idlout acted in Two Words for Snow, a play about Matthew Henson, the Inuktitut-speaking African-American who accompanied Robert Peary on his expeditions to the North Pole and his Greenlandic lover, Akatingwah, played by Idlout.

Idlout says she finds live theatre nerve-wracking but "hugely challenging."

Idlout, who spent her high school years in Ottawa, moved to Toronto last year - and it was the "most miserable year of my life," she says.

"Toronto is such a big place."

But Idlout says she now appreciates the "endless" opportunities in Toronto, where the Canadian music industry is centred.

Idlout put together a new, highly experienced band to back her up next week at the legendary El Mocambo club on Spadina Avenue in Toronto, as well as at the aboriginal music awards next Friday.

Idlout is working on another album and when she gets 20 new songs finished, she'll go into studio to cut a new CD.

Earlier this month, she taped seven shows for Buffalo Tracks, which, among other musicians, featured Charlie Panigoniak and his wife, Elisapie Isaac, and Angava.

"I try to get as many Inuit on the show as I can," Idlout says.

Hosting a television show isn't easy. Idlout says she does "tons of research" before a guest comes on, so she can keep the conversation flowing.

Now into her second season on APTN, Idlout thinks she's becoming more relaxed on camera.

She's thankful to the Canada Council, the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation and Nunavut's Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth for supporting her first projects.

"People don't recognize that without the support of councils and organizations, it is near to impossible to get into music."

Idlout's family also offered - and continues to offer - support.

"My mother has always encouraged me to pursue my passion," she says.

Hard work and determination have also played a big role in Idlout's success.

Early on, she was inspired by such diverse performers as Simon and Garfunkel to Elvis, Harry Belafonte, Charlie Panigoniak, Charlie Adams and the Pixies - but she managed to create a sound that's all hers.

As a musician, Idlout stands on her own feet. She plays the guitar, piano and trumpet and writes her own music.

She tried writing with a partner, but the end result didn't work for her.

"I couldn't play the songs with conviction."

As her first album is now heading off for sale in the U.S., Idlout is also looking south. She'll be playing in New York City on Dec. 5 - solo, an experience she describes as both awesome and scary.

Idlout has already played in Norway at the Riddu Riddu festival as well as in Germany, Italy and the U.K.

Idlout says she likes to play for an audience. This year she performed in Inuvik at the Great North Arts festival. She's played in Greenland, in Kuujjuaq at the Aqpik Jam, and also at the Iqaluit's 2002 Arctic Winter Games.

The rush of an audience's appreciation feeds Idlout's creative energy, and she's still buoyed by the memory of a crowd in Newcastle, England, where people stood in the rain to listen to her play live.

"It's not all about CD's," she says.

"Generous" is how Idlout describes the welcoming reception she says people offer her everywhere she's played.

And if there's one word to describe how Idlout is looking to her promising future, at the beginning of an exciting week, it's optimistic.

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