North

Curiosity and a flash sale: How Kugluktuk's only accordionist came to be

'I went to the front of the stage and just sat there and watched the accordion player,' said Dettrick Zacary Hokanak, Kugluktuk's resident accordion player.

Accordion to Dettrick Hokanak, he's self taught and the only person in the area who plays the instrument

Dettrick Zacary Hokanak is Kugluktuk's only accordionist. He says there are usually fiddles at the community dances, and his addition of the accordion has been well-received. (Marc Winkler/CBC)

It was a mix of curiosity and a sale at the local Co-op that led to the creation of Kugluktuk's only accordion player: Dettrick Zacary Hokanak.

Hokanak said he first became interested in the instrument when he was young and went to a drum dance festival in Rankin Inlet. "I went to the front of the stage and just sat there and watched the accordion player," said Hokanak.

Dettrick Hokanak noticed Kugluktuk, Nunavut, didn't have an accordion player. So her took it upon himself to find one and learn how to play. He shared the story and some self-taught tunes with CBC North's Weekender host Marc Winkler. 7:37

In 2012, he had the opportunity to play the accordion for the first time, and that's when he knew he had to learn how to play the instrument. He went to his local Co-op and found an accordion on sale for $299.99, down from $899.99.

It was a "sweet deal," said Hokanak.

After buying the instrument, he taught himself to play by ear. "I've had a few people approach me about doing lessons, but it's kind of hard to find the time to instruct and try to teach somebody about accordion," said Hokanak.

He plays his accordion at events in the community, which isn't traditional for the area. According to a paper published by Canadian musician Jim Hiscott, the button accordion is a tradition in the eastern Arctic that was brought into the North by European whaling crews in the 17th and 19th centuries. It is not commonly found in the western Arctic.

Hokanak bought the accordion on sale at the Co-op 6 years ago. (Marc Winkler/CBC)

Hokanak said usually there are fiddles for the community dances, but his addition of the accordion has been well-received. "Everyone's pretty much used to the fiddle."

He said no one else in the area plays the accordion. "If it makes people happy I'm going to be happy too."

Hokanak isn't just an accordionist; sometimes he will also strap on a harness and simultaneously play the harmonica. 

"If I add a shackle to my feet maybe I can have three instruments," laughed Hokanak.

But he doesn't just play by himself. "I'm so thankful for people that play with me."

With files from Marc Winkler