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Sinuupa on the rocks. (L-R): Drummer David Paul Neil, lead singer and songwriter Etua Snowball, bass player Pat Blonk and guitarist Rob MacDonald.

July/August 2012

Last profiled by Canada’s Arctic Journal over 10 years ago (March/April 2001) it would not be an unfair question were one to ask – what has talented Inuit rocker Sinuupa been up to since then? Though he’s not recorded new music in over a decade,the short answer is, he’s been busy.

Sinuupa’s previous album Arctic Darkness, released in 1998, fueled interest enough in his talent and song to launch a performance career that has taken him all over the world. He has performed overseas in Norway, Bordeaux, and Paris, France, and somewhat closer to home in Greenland. He is also still a major part of the ever-expanding northern music scene and a frequent performer in his hometown of Kuujjuaq, Nunavik.

Celebrities such as actor Liam Neeson and well-known Canadian television troubadour Wayne Rostad of On the Road Again fame have come to hear Sinuupa play. His music has taken him North to South too; to Montreal,where he performed with Quebecois legend Richard Desjardins and from one end of the country to the other as far west as Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics and eastward again to Ottawa, Toronto and Moncton, New Brunswick, for a television appearance with popular aboriginal artist Florent Vollant of Kashtin.

If anything, Sinuupa’s post Arctic Darkness period has been nothing less than a highly personal and transformative musical journey through a cultural and artistic evolution of identity, space, time and global and Arctic change.What he has seen and experienced in his travels has broadened his own perspectives on our rapidly changing world and opened the door to new impressions and thoughts concerning the lives of others.

His education and international touring have also positively enhanced his awareness of how Inuit and their culture are perceived around the world. Travelling throughout the global community we all share and interact in today also made him realize how distances between cultures have become much shorter, whether through faster,more efficient means of transportation or more road links to remote areas, or through the Internet, and the entire gamut of modern media available to more people than ever before and how this new and enhanced inter-connectivity between us impacts all of our lives.

With native blood running deep in his veins, it became all the more imperative then, for this once carefree young man to get his important message across through his music — to have the voices of his people heard and to show the world more about the Inuit way of life, their deep tie to a precious fragile environment of their homelands and how the Arctic is being affected by all that is transpiring in our rapidly shrinking world.

For Inuit, taking the direct route to anywhere has always been an exercise in the obvious, the way to survive.And certainly, no exception, Sinuupa is not one to take any unnecessary detours in his efforts to make his point. He initially began delivering his message in his own Inuktitut language through the softer folksy lyrics of his first album, Nunaga (1995), then he moved on to using English on his second album, Arctic Darkness, to reach out directly and share his concerns with a much wider audience.

In English or in Inuktitut, his message over time has evolved and matured with the man. Never afraid to speak the blunt truth, Sinuupa’s new found lyrical prose in either of the two languages on his recently released third album Culture Shock is served straight up, hard on the rocks, no sugar added and guaranteed to take hold of you one way or another while shedding light on issues too often hidden in the dark.

Even his [artist] name takes a stand. Legally known as Edward Snowball,as Etua to his kith and kin, Sinuupa, the name his fans know him as, is a mere pronunciation of his last name in Inuktitut. The outspoken singer-songwriter chose this name for himself as a way to mock the government that so insensitively changed his family’s original pedigree, Aputiarjuk, to compensate for their own lack of Inuktitut verbal skills to a more effortless translation “Snowball” before they simply tagged his people with a number. Though “Sinuupa” has no inherent meaning in the Inuktitut language, it definitely bears personal meaning for him as an expression of his own independence and personal pride in his Inuit heritage.

This deep pride Etua not only expresses openly in his songs, but also wears it and shares it in every day life with his kids and young people in his community where he teaches his resilient native language with a McGill University’s honours degree under his belt.

But even if his demeanour as a teacher may be gentle and well mannered, his artistic persona is far from status quo. Appearing reserved at first glance perhaps,once Sinuupa takes the stage to sing his people’s praise, he definitely connects — breaks the ice! Having also produced music for a few northern organizations infomercials and more recently for a play presenting the legend of Kautjajuk, the ill-treated orphan, adapted for Nunavik’s first youth theatre company, Etua certainly doesn’t intend to keep his music to himself. One thing is for sure, he won’t settle behind his desk or in his home studio forever.

With a voice as deep as Elvis himself, this northern performer likes to funk it up with a mix of country and blues,and even a hint of rap. Recording along with some of Montreal’s best musicians (guitarist Rob MacDonald, drummer David Paul Neil and bass player Pat Blonk) Sinuupa’s music and stage presence light up to shine bright as the Northern star he is.

Sinuupa’s music is available for all to enjoy on iTunes and other digital outlets, as well as in stores in Nunavik, namely at Kuujjuaq’s airport gift shop, Tivi Galleries, Newviq’vik and the Northern store; in Nunavut through Malikkaat in Iqaluit; and soon across the North. To find out more about Sinuupa, log on to his official website www.sinuupa.com or follow him on Facebook.