Folk-Rock music artists
The members of the Canadian rock group Sugluk saw their small, remote village electrified in more ways than one. Located in the northernmost tip of Quebec, just outside the Arctic Circle, their town—previously called Sugluk as well—consisted primarily of tents and igloos, with the first few permanent structures and power lines added in the 1960s. Even after that initial modernization, most teenagers traveled down to Kuujjuarapik or even as far south as Quebec City for school. The four musicians returned home with loads of pop records by the Beatles, Hendrix, and others, which they used as textbooks to teach themselves how to play their instruments and write their own songs. Soon they were playing community dance halls around the region, and their reputation grew to the point that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation recruited them to record two 7" singles in 1975. That remains the extent of their catalog, although Sugluk continued touring into the 1980s and reunited in 2013.
Of their handful of extant tracks, three are included on Light in the Attic’s new comp Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966-1985. Those songs show a band developing an identity even as it stamps popular folk-rock with its own personal flourish. "Fall Away" opens with a thundering drum fill and a shaky one-note bass groove, setting the stage for singer George Kakayuk’s bittersweet tale of thwarted romance. The song has the folksy grit of Neil Young, but the rambunctious energy of the Flamin’ Groovies. Guitarist Tayara Papigatuk takes over on "I Didn't Know", which sounds so loose and rambling the rhythm section might be the only thing holding it together. Showing their range, "Ajuinnarasuarsunga" (which translates from Inuktitut as "I Tried Hard") is a folksier number defined by the band’s careful harmonies and a lovely piano rambling in the background. "Though the band was not 100 percent satisfied with these raw one-take recordings, " writes Kevin "Sipreano" Howes in the Native North America liner notes, "they remain one of the earliest examples of original Inuit rock music recorded in Canada and carry an exceptional spiritual weight."
If Sugluk emerge as one of the stars of Native North America, it’s largely because you can hear a very particular struggle in their songs—not necessarily to be heard by a mainstream audience, but to define themselves through some combination of Native American culture and popular music. That endeavor to some degree informs every song here, as artists from all over Canada calibrate their own equations for personal expression. Some, like the group Sikumiut, sound like they could play shows alongside Young or Joni Mitchell. Others, like Morley Loon and Shingoose, barely nod to pop music at all. But almost everyone on Native North America writes and sings about the impulse to both imitate others and distinguish oneself. Gordon Dick, a member of the Lil’wat Nation and a self-taught guitarist, even gives a name to this music: "I dreamed I was in a rock group, playing on a Saturday night. Our name wasn’t like the Beatles, but I found an old Indian name: Siwash Rock."