Arts, Culture & Media

Inuit Singers Elisapie Isaac & Simon Lynge

Elisapie Isaac grew up in Salluit. It's a small isolated Inuit village in Nunavik, the northernmost region of Quebec. When she was fourteen, she got her first job.

Player utilities

ISAAC: "Which nobody wanted in the village. Everybody took, you know, cashier at the co-op, stuff like that, working at the school, and the only thing that nobody applied to is the TV and radio station and I was like, are you guys crazy?"

She began working as a radio and TV host. Elisapie says it was a turning point for her.

ISAAC: "I realized that I may be shy, but in front of the camera, I think I sort of transformed into another person, maybe the artist that I wanted to become. So slowly going towards music."

Today, Elisapie lives in Montreal, where she's recorded two albums. For her latest CD called "There will be Stars," Elisapie asked Quebecois folk singer, filmmaker and activist Richard Desjardins to write a song for her. The song, "Moi, Elsie", tells the story of a white man who works in a northern village and then leaves. And it's told from the perspective of young Inuit women.

ISAAC: So I thought it would be nice to sing a song from these girls to this man who's taking the plane at the end of the month, and to tell all their dreams and their hopes and despair maybe also.

Elisapie also writes her own songs, in English and her native language, Inuktitut. She says back in the 1980s, many Inuit feared the loss of their native language.
Not in her village though.

ISAAC: Where I'm from, it's still very very strong. Because we're so isolated probably, also. But we're still very Inuit-speaking. Young people, they become trilingual at one point. We're still very very strong with our language. So it really depends where you're from, I think. I think we're so proud of that, I think it's our identity."

Elisapie Isaac is also an award-winning documentary filmmaker. But she's put that work on hold for now to focus on music.

Simon Lynge
Another singer-songwriter with Inuit roots is Simon Lynge. This is from his debut album titled "The Future". Simon Lynge grew up in a little village on the southern tip of Greenland.

LYNGE: "It was very simple, I helped out with the sheep a lot when I was a kid, there was lots of shepherds, so I helped out the neighboring shepherds starting when I was about five years old. There were no stores there, no electricity, no running water. Beautiful place. Four generations of my family were born there and grew up there."

In his late teens, Lynge moved with his parents to the Danish capital, Copenhagen, where he began to pursue a music career. He says music runs deep in the family. His grandfather is a musician, his father plays the accordion. So Lynge picked up the guitar and began writing soulful, deeply melodic songs, like this, "The Promised Land".

LYNGE: "We've had problems in my country with alcoholism…"

Lynge says he wrote this song, in English and Inuit, after meeting a guy who was from a town near his village in Greenland. Lynge says the man's story is part of a bigger, difficult reality.

LYNGE: "So a lot of young people from Greenland go to Denmark to get an education but it's a very different country, it's a very different culture and often, we from Greenland, people get lost in Denmark, 'cause they don't feel like they know how to live in that kind of society and often people turn to the bottle and this man had done that. But when I started talking to him, he was so intelligent, he was so lucid and told such great stories of where he came from."

Simon Lynge now lives in Washington State. He mostly writes and sings in English but he says he continues to be inspired by his Greenlandic heritage.

For The World, I'm Betto Arcos.

  • ELISAPIE.jpg

    Elisapie (Photo: Valerie Jodoin Keaton)
  • simon-slider.jpg

    Simon Lynge (Photo © 2010 Rebecca Reid courtesy of Lo–Max Records Ltd)

Comments