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Singer Elisapie makes waves with Blondie cover

Nunatsiaq News| March 24, 2023

Categories: news

ARTS AND CULTURE  MAR 24, 2023 – 5:35 PM EDT

Singer Elisapie makes waves with Blondie cover

Artist’s Inuktitut rendition of “Heart of Glass” featured on Spotify’s Indigenous playlist

“Uummati Attanarsimat,” an Inuktitut version of Blondie’s 1979 hit “Heart of Glass” by Nunavik singer Elisapie, is one of 25 songs by Arctic Indigenous artists spotlighted on Spotify’s Indigenous playlist this month. Elisapie curated the list to highlight “bold” music from the global north. (Photo courtesy of Spotify)

By Madalyn Howitt

When singer-songwriter Elisapie listens to Blondie’s song Heart of Glass, she’s immediately transported back to the dance hall in Ivujivik, the small town close to Salluit where she grew up.

“All of a sudden, when I hear that song it takes me straight back to the dance floor,” said Elisapie (whose full name is Elisapie Isaac, but who uses her first name for performing), speaking from her home in Montreal.

“Music can really transport you straight back to memory. Sometimes it can guide you when you need to heal, when you need to go to those places.”

After listening to playlists shared by her friends during the pandemic, the Juno award-winning artist rediscovered her love of pop songs from her youth, prompting Elisapie to record a reimagined version of Heart of Glass.

But her dreamy cover of the 1979 pop hit is unique not only for its new spin on the arrangement, but also for the lyrics — Elisapie sings it entirely in Inuktitut.

Uummati Attanarsimat (Heart of Glass) is one of 25 songs by northern Indigenous artists featured on this month’s Spotify Indigenous playlist, which Elisapie curated especially for the streaming service.

In translating the lyrics to Inuktitut, she hoped to make the song more accessible for elders back home in Nunavik who have heard the original but may not have understood it.

“To bring a huge song like Blondie’s, [a] song popularized by white people, and take [it] and mix it around and make an Inuktitut song is very thrilling because these people have to know that they were also a huge part of our lives,” she said of the popular songs of the 1970s and ’80s that helped shape her life in Nunavik.

“It’s very challenging as Inuit to try to have our place and get our way of life respected by governments and institutions, but musically, Blondie was there to be a friend,” she said.

The song has garnered rave reviews on social media — including from Blondie members themselves. The band shared a link to the song on its Twitter account, and lead singer Deborah Harry sent a thank-you note to Elisapie saying she loved the “beautiful” cover, Elisapie said.

“Knowing that I brought a bit of joy and smiles and spirit through music is something very satisfying, it’s an amazing thing,” Elisapie said.

Uummati Attanarsimat is one of three songs by her on the Spotify Indigenous playlist this month, an eclectic mix of songs by Indigenous singers from the circumpolar north including Nunavik, Nunavut, Greenland, Siberia and Mongolia.

Elisapie said she wants to take listeners on a voyage across the Arctic and through generations of musicians, highlighting everything from throat singing to northern takes on hip hop to “the Greenlandic Leonard Cohen,” Rasmus Lyberth.

“Arctic Indigenous artists are very bold because our environment is very bold,” she said.

“I really wanted to have that feeling of urgency, a little bit of edginess.”

Igloolik rock group Northern Haze, who released the first-ever Inuktitut-language rock album in 1985, are featured on the list as are beloved Nunavik band Sugluk, fronted by Elisapie’s uncle, George Kakayuk.

Celebrated Inuk singer Susan Aglukark makes an appearance, along with younger artists like Beatrice Deer as well as the late Kelly Fraser.

It was important to showcase the way northern Indigenous artists can blend the two worlds of traditional music and contemporary art, Elisapie said.

“It’s about time that we are seen as creative people and not just this image of the North, like it’s white, it’s freezing and there’s the sunset, and then that’s pretty much it, [but] it’s not that,” she said.

“It’s so diverse, it’s so alive, it’s so fun, it’s so human. Yes, it’s harsh … but definitely full of life and full of magic.”

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