Copyright © 2000. All Rights Reserved
by Mary-Lynn McEwen
Thursday, March 30
Jack Singer Concert Hall
When she left her tribal home of Arviat in the Northwest Territories while still in her teens, and settled in Ottawa to work for the government as a linguist, little did singer-songwriter Susan Aglukark know that her flair for communication would transform her life and the lives of others. But the native speaker of Inuktitut, blessed with exotic beauty to complement her quiet, forthright manner and soothing, hypnotic voice, soon found that music flowed through the barriers that language sometimes erects.
Still, after the release of 1995s triple platinum album, This Child, and her new release, Unsung Heroes, Aglukark is hesitant to analyze the effect that her heritage has had on her musical directions.
"I dont consider myself a native artist or an artist speaking for any one culture. I consider myself a musical artist, and thats all," the singer explains hours before leaving Toronto to tour places as diverse as Churchill, Manitoba, which was her birthplace, and Calgary. "Im delighted to still be able to reach all kinds of people, because 10 years ago, I never would have believed Id be doing this for a living now."
In fact, Aglukark leaned so heavily towards the side of doing music for enjoyment hers and her audiences that the handful of dates she played to European audiences around the release of This Child felt more like a vacation than a job for her.
"It just seemed a bit magical, seeing these very different places and cultures. Then, Id step on stage and thered be all these people there to watch, and it would be like, Oh, this is serious, I have to work at this, theyre here to listen to me. But usually, it had the feeling of one of those school trips... fun. I do it very differently now. I focus on the work of the music and the tour, and I seldom have time to treat it like a vacation now that Ive accepted the fact this is a career."
Although Aglukark looks forward to playing all the dates on her tour, Churchill holds no special allure.
"Im not sure what to expect there. I havent been back since years ago when my sister had a baby there. I dont feel connected because thats just the place where they would fly women in to have babies as their time came. Now I think the town is really only populated when the polar bears come through, to support the tourism trade."
Still, as unconnected as the singer feels to her birthplace, her songs, which are sung in both English and Inuktitut, help people across the country connect with their emotions and a sense of richness begat by diversity.
Aglukark says of her audiences, "They include everyone. There are people of all ages, children to people over 50, and from all cultures. But usually Im not thinking of that. Im just thinking of the music."
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