Nunavut, set to music

ArctiCulture | Cambridge Bay duo Scary Bear Soundtrack’s new album gives a first-hand account of life in Canada’s North, all set to pop-synth

A connection to the land is vital for Nunavumiut identity (Image from the video: ‘On the Land’)

Cambridge Bay, 500km north of the Arctic Circle, seems an unlikely place to launch a music career, but the group Scary Bear Soundtrack has been making synthesiser-based pop music inspired by their experiences of living in Nunavut since 2012.

Ovayok Road, the band’s latest album, is named after a gravel road that leads from Cambridge Bay to a park outside the community. Gloria Guns, the duo’s lead singer, explains that it “invokes the spirit of wanting to get out onto the land”.

The identity of Nunavumiut is so tied up with the land that the name Nunavut means simply ‘our land’ in Inuktitut, the first language of 80% of its residents.

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Ovayok Road and its focus on explaining what life in the North is like is classic Scary Bear Soundtrack. “Most southern Canadians have no idea what it’s like living in Nunavut,” Ms Guns says. ‘Water Truck’, one of the album’s six songs, describes “waiting for the water truck to come so that you can have a shower”. (Piped water systems do not exist in most Nunavut communities.)

Even though the duo sings about life in Nunavut, its sound has national appeal. Scary Bear Soundtrack was a finalist in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s 2014 Searchlight competition for best new artist. Ms Guns and fellow band member Christine Aye are hoping they can use the attention to open a dialogue about some of Nunavut’s more serious problems.

The territory is plagued by Canada’s highest rate of domestic violence. The video for the song ‘Fault Lines’ will feature women holding signs reading ‘Stop violence against women’.

The album will be released on August 14, but their Northern fans were able to get an advance copy at their concert at the Yellowknife Pride festival this past weekend.

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Performing at the festival gave the duo the chance to speak with The Jerry Cans, an Iqaluit-based band, who also play Nunavut-inspired music and with whom she hopes to collaborate with one day.

Ovayok Road sees Scary Bear Soundtrack head off in a new direction artistically. The previous incarnation was a collaboration with Ontario musicians, but in the new release they perform as a duo. The new release will be supported by a short southern Canadian tour with stops in Ottawa and Waterloo and possibly other cities to be announced.

As is typical of musicians in Nunavut, the Scary Bear Soundtrack project is not a full time gig. Ms Guns is a human rights lawyer. She currently resides in Ottawa, where she is studying for her master’s degree in access to justice for residents of Canada’s North. Ms Aye works for the Government of Nunavut as a justice worker.

Listen to Ovayok Road.

Originally published by The Arctic Journal. Re-published here with the permission of the author.

The Rasmussen’s ArctiCulture articles offer a closer look at the arts and culture of the region.

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