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First Play: The Trade-Offs, Qaumariaq

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Andrea Gin

It’s not often that a group has the distinction of pioneering a sound all its own, but with the re-release of their 2016 album Qaumariaq, Iqaluit band the Trade-Offs hope to introduce their unique brand of Canadian blues to the world.

The 2017 version of Qaumariaq includes one brand-new track, "Dancing With the Wind," and the full album combines elements of rock and blues with lyrical themes reflecting life in the North. Bassist Jeff Maurice provides the soulful backdrop to the distinctive weathered, growly voice of lead singer and guitarist Josh Qaumariaq, who sings in a blend of Inuktitut and English lyrics.

The Trade-Offs recently signed to the rising Nunavut label Aakuluk Music, which is why Qaumariaq is being re-released: founded by fellow Iqaluit band the Jerry Cans, Aakuluk has started to show other Northern musicians that it is possible to play and tour as a band that sings in Inuktitut.

“I started learning the guitar when I was 17 or 18 and singing in my 20s,” Qaumariaq says via email. “I think [the Jerry Cans] were the only guys my age at the time performing as a band and I asked them to join me at our local legion. I think if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have been a musician.”

The former Searchlight contestants hope that, with label support, the album will be heard beyond its fanbase in the North.

“I know the Jerry Cans has had a big impact on music in the North,” Qaumariaq says, “and having Aakuluk Music is a great step towards having Nunavut music heard by more people and a chance for musicians to get exposed to more audiences.”

Qaumariaq will be available on Nov. 3 via Aaukuluk Music.