Bringing the music biz to the North: Jerry Cans launch Nunavut's first record label

Iqaluit-based band The Jerry Cans created Nunavut's very first record label with a specific goal in mind. To help other Northern acts navigate the music industry.
The mission of Aakuluk Music is to help Nunavut musicians produce and promote their music. (Aakuluk Music)

Iqaluit-based band The Jerry Cans is known for their unique blend of traditional Inuit throat singing, and roots rock.

But now the band is also helping more Inuit musicians in the North. Two years ago, they created Aakuluk Music, Nunavut's very first record label. Andrew Morrison from the Jerry Cans said they started the label because they found it very challenging to navigate the music industry from Iqaluit.

"Because we sing in Inuktitut we often heard no from a lot of music industry people," he said.

"We were playing across Canada, people were interested in what we were doing. But for some reason there was a lot of hesitation within the music industry."

He said they didn't want the next generation of Inuit artists to go through the same struggle so they decided to start a record label as a way to share what they've learned. 

Aakuluk Music showcases artists at events in Toronto and Montreal, helps them apply for funding to record and of course signs musicians to the label's roster. They're also re-releasing albums by older acts like Northern Haze so fans can add them to their collections.
The Jerry Cans started Aakuluk Music to share what they've learned about navigating the music industry from the North.

"It's very hard to access Inuktitut music and the whole Jerry Cans philosophy is that music is such an effective way of preserving and promoting language," Morrison said. "So that's what we are trying to do, to get Inuktitut music more accessible to people in Nunavut but also all across Canada and all across the world."  

One of the artists they signed, Colleen Nakashuk who performs as Aasiva, is an Inuk indie/pop singer who plays the ukulele.

Colleen Nakashuk, who performs as Aasiva, is an indie/pop singer who plays the ukulele. (Aakuluk Music)
"I didn't really start singing until I found the ukulele, which I started paying a couple of years ago," she explained.

She said it was while she was attending a college program in Ottawa, called Nunavut Sivuniksavut, that she discovered the instrument and fell in love with it.

"It's my main instrument now. It's very portable and I've been playing it on buses and on planes and hotels, it's really been a lot of fun."

Aasiva, who is from the remote community of Pangnirtung, but currently lives in Iqaluit said the label has been helping promote her self-titled album.

"It's really exciting to be part of an upcoming record label in Nunavut."