When the Canadian Folk Music Awards were announced in April, Joshua Haulli was a member of a hunting party from Iglulik that was harvesting caribou.
He wanted to be in Charlottetown, P.E.I, for the awards ceremony but the in-person event was cancelled due to Covid-19. Instead, he went out on the land.
He only found out about being selected as the Young Performer of the Year when he texted his sister through an InReach device. She was watching the results via the internet at home.
“I felt so many emotions all at once. I was speechless and didn’t know what to say,” said Haulli, who was also nominated for Indigenous Songwriter of the Year and Traditional Singer of the Year for his debut albut Aqqut, which was released in 2019.
The hunting party – comprising people from Iglulik, Hall Beach and Naujaat – had plenty to celebrate in the cabin they where they stayed. The came back with six caribou in addition to learning of Haulli’s musical accolades.
“It was a very fortunate moment,” he said.
He also spent some time thinking about his late father, David, and late grandfather, Dominic Angutimarik. Both men were important influences in his life.
“They were the people who I looked up to the most, even though they are gone right now,” he said. “They still have a very big impact in my life.”
Aqqut is a shortened version of an Inuktitut word meaning “the road” or “the path.” Haulli’s first album, featuring 10 songs written in the Inuit language, reflects his life’s journey over his first 21 years. Haulli wrote nine of the tracks, with one – Akkangma – being a song he learned from his grandfather.
Singing in Inuktitut allows Haulli to express his emotions best.
“It’s a part of me. It’s something I want to keep it going,” he said.
Playing live is now something that Haulli can only do online due to Covid-19 preventing concerts. Hauuli performed in a number of communities in Nunavut and Nunavik in 2018 and 2019. The cancellation of his live gigs this year has greatly disappointed him, he admitted.
However, he has another major project on the go. He’s acquired some recording equipment and he has access to a small cabin where the recording can take place.
“We’re trying to get a studio going here in Igulik,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent here in Iglulik… I’ve recorded four or five people who are local.”