Colin Adjun, the 'Fiddler of the Arctic,' has died

Barb Adjun said her family has received an outpouring of love and appreciation from her father’s fans across the North - and especially from their home community of Kugluktuk, Nunavut. 'Everyone in town knows how to jig, I’m sure, she said, referring to his legacy.

Kugluktuk, Nunavut’s famed fiddler loved to see people jigging to his music, says his daughter

'Fiddler of the Arctic' Colin Adjun died on Friday morning, according to his family. He was 77. (CBC North)

Everyone in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, knows how to jig thanks to famed fiddler Colin Adjun.

"Someone just told me [that] this morning, it was like a culture that he created in town. From the young to the old, they just loved to hear his music. They grew up jigging," said Adjun's eldest daughter, Barb. 

"The young kids, you could see them — they're just walking and they're already jigging."

Colin, the "Fiddler of the Arctic," died early Friday morning in Ottawa, according to his family. He was 77.

Barb said her family had received an outpouring of affection from across the North from fans who packed community halls and turned their living rooms into dance floors whenever they heard her father play. She said her father felt the same appreciation for his audiences.

"I remember one time, we were just going to eat supper and the phone rang. He went to answer it and someone wanted him to play music ... He said, 'Well, I gotta go. Some people want me to play fiddle.' That's how he was."

When he returned later that evening, Barb told her father, "You should have ate first before you went out."

She said her father replied, "'I've got to play for these people. They made me who I am.'"

'He just heard a song and he played it'

Colin was born in the Read Island area, northeast of Kugluktuk, in January 1944. He was nine when he first got a hold of a fiddle "from a guy that was sailing past their camp," said Barb.

Colin took to the instrument immediately, teaching himself to play by ear from songs he listened to on the radio.

"He learned music without reading sheets. He just heard a song and he played it," said Barb.

The fiddle would take Colin across the North and all over the country. He played to crowds from Alaska to the east coast of Canada.

"He always had stories for us kids and we couldn't wait until he came back from the next trip," said Barb. "He would tell us all about jamborees and concerts and the shows that he did, and what was fun about it and who he met along the way. He really loved to travel."

Colin also worked for many years as a wildlife officer with the territorial government. And this gave him just another avenue to take his music abroad.

"When they had wildlife conferences, he always took his fiddle with him, because the guys that he worked with really enjoyed his music," said Barb.

A regular on the northern festival circuit

Colin released his first album, Fiddler of the Arctic, in 1981, recorded by the CBC Northern Service. He would go on to record two more albums, Dusty the Leader and Beluga Waters. Yellowknife musician Norm Glowach produced both of the albums, proudly noting that 1997's Beluga Waters was the first "all-original fiddle album in the N.W.T."

Colin was a regular on the northern festival circuit, playing Yellowknife's Folk on the Rocks, Iqaluit's Alianait Arts Festival, Inuvik's Great Northern Arts Festival, and the Adäka Cultural Festival in Whitehorse.

On stage, he would collaborate with other legendary fiddlers, as well as the next generation of northern musicians. That included his youngest son, Gustin, who was eager from a young age to pick up the fiddle and play like his father. 

"He learned to play around the same age my dad did," said Barb.

Colin Adjun plays fiddle with son Gustin and granddaughter Liette. (Barb Adjun)

Colin was a recipient of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

Growing up, Barb said there was always music playing in the house, from Elvis Presley to opera.

But the best was the nights her father picked up his fiddle. 

"Especially after dinner. Some of us would jig and we would waltz," said Barb.

"It was so nice growing up with him."