Canadian Inuit rock band Northern Haze returns with first album in 33 years

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The original members of Northern Haze around the time they released their first album in 1985. (David Gunn/CBC)
The ground-breaking rockers from Igloolik, Nunavut are back.

It’s been 33 years since Northern Haze recorded their first indigenous-language rock album in North America — and now, they’re getting ready to release a new album with ten original songs in November.

“I’m really happy about it,” said James Ungalaq, the band’s lead singer, speaking in Inuktitut to the CBC’s Toby Otak.

In was in the early 1970’s when five young Inuit men from Igloolik got together to form their own band.

James Ungalak, the lead singer of Northern Haze, is an original member of the band. He’s pictured here in the recording studio they set up in Iqaluit. (Travis Burke/CBC)

In 1985 they recorded their first self-titled album with CBC’s northern service. They used traditional Inuit stories and songs and combined them with beats and guitar riffs inspired by modern rock music.

The album led to gigs at festivals around the country, including Folk on the Rocks in Yellowknife, N.W.T. and Expo ’86 in Vancouver (West coast).

“We have been wanting to record for a very long time but it is always challenging to make an album”, said Ungalaq.

A tragic loss

He said it became harder for the band to think about recording again after tragedy struck.

“In 2008 we lost our lead Elijah Kunuk who died young from cancer and we all just couldn’t seem to get back to singing because he wrote the songs and was leading the band.”

The band has added new members since then, Derek Aqqiaruq and Allan Kangok.

Derek Aqqiaruq is James Ungalak’s son and another new member of the band. (Travis Burke/CBC)

Ungalak refers to them as “the young ones,” and together with original band members John Inooya and Naisana Qamaniq, they began playing together again.

The new album is called Siqinnaarut, which means “return of the sun.”

Ungalaq said they were able to record new album with help from Aakuluk Music, Nunavut’s first and only music label.

In a press release, the label writes that the band recorded the album in Iqaluit in the dead of winter and built a recording studio from gear brought by their producer.

Allan Kangok is one of the new members of Northern Haze. (Travis Burke/CBC)

Ungalaq described “Inuk,” one of the songs on the album as “heavy metal screaming at the beginning of the song.”

“It’s about colonialism and Inuit culture — how it has affected Inuit in many difficult ways.”

The official release date for Siqinnaarut is Nov. 23.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: How a new wave of Indigenous cinema is changing the narrative of Canada, CBC News

Finland: Finns scoop up Nordic prizes for film, music, books and environment, Yle News

United States: Indian Agent, the Alaska band reclaiming Indigenous voices, Alaska Dispatch News

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