Igloolik artist Terry Uyarak nominated for 2021 Juno award

·3 min read
Terry Uyarak was nominated for a Juno in the category Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year.  (CBC - image credit)
Terry Uyarak was nominated for a Juno in the category Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year. (CBC - image credit)

An Igloolik, Nunavut, artist known for his performance background can now add another accomplishment to his list.

Terry Uyarak was nominated for a 2021 Juno Award in the category Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year for his debut album Nunarjua Isulinginniani, released in October 2020.

"I'm blown away … For them to think about my album or just my name, it blows me away," he told CBC's Juanita Taylor, host of Northbeat. "I didn't expect that."

Uyarak, a self-taught singer-songwriter, recorded the album through Aakuluk Music's Iqaluit studio — a refurbished garage, soundproofed and insulated using caribou, muskox, seal and polar bear skins.

Terry Uyarak is also a hunter and he features moments he spends on the land in one of his music videos.
Terry Uyarak is also a hunter and he features moments he spends on the land in one of his music videos.(Aakuluk Music)

The title of the album translates to "before the world ends," he said, which was a bit of a quip to himself.

"I came up with it as a joke," said Uyarak, who learned to play guitar at 16 years old. "I thought, if I could write or make an album before I die, or before the world got crazier in these weird times, I thought I would at least have an album before the world ended."

The 14-track collection weaves together songs with storytelling interludes by Igloolik elder Simon Qamaniq. It also mixes Uyarak's acoustic guitar melodies with his own recordings of sounds, including his dog team howling and winter winds sweeping across the tundra.

The songs, which are entirely in Inuktitut, also feature Becky Han, Celina Kalluk and Riit, all Nunavut artists.

In the English version of his lyrics of one of the first tracks titled Inuit Nunangat, he sings "Inuit, Land of the Inuit. No other land compares to ours."

Igloolik singer-songwriter Terry Uyarak is shown in a handout photo. His debut album is called Nunarjua Isulinginniani, or 'Before the World Ends.'
Igloolik singer-songwriter Terry Uyarak is shown in a handout photo. His debut album is called Nunarjua Isulinginniani, or 'Before the World Ends.'(THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Lane)

Long-time performer

Uyarak is not new to the entertainment scene. For over a decade he performed as an actor, juggler and musician and toured internationally with the world's only Inuit circus troupe, Artcirq.

He also co-directed and performed in a major production Unikkaaqtuaq, which toured across Canada in 2020. He's also a hunter and a father, part of which gave him inspiration for the album.

"I think it is … how I grew up through believing in my culture, language and getting so much love from family and friends, that is the outcome — the album is based on that," he said.

"My family and friends, they are truly my inspiration."

He recently got Inuit tattoos on his temples in December. He says they are a reminder to him to be "better" every day.

"If I get to a mirror and see them I'll tell myself , 'OK, you have to try and be better than you were yesterday, to continue healing and feel good about whatever happened before," he said. "Be proud."

The big award night is on May 16. Uyarak says he's fine with whoever wins the category.

"I'm very very happy just to be in that list and not so worried about the outcome."