Born in Salluit on the Hudson Strait in far northern Quebec, Elisapie Isaac was, following a local custom, given up for adoption at birth by her mother. In her 22nd year, she moved to Montreal to finish her studies. However, she also long and deeply experienced her leaving as a kind of abandonment and the source of a feeling of incompleteness. Released in 2018, her fourth disc, The Ballad of the Runaway Girl, is “the musical tale of an Inuk expat.” Her 11 songs, in Inuktitut, English and French, form a poetic framework that expresses her desire to reconcile with herself by reclaiming bonds with her biological mother, her family and the austere beauty of the Far North.
From this life adventure transcended by artistic gesture, Elisapie has chosen two parts to form Nunami nipiit, which can be translated as Echoes of the Earth or Sounds of the Land: set to a relentless beat with lyrics by Susan and Etulu Aningmiuq, Qanniuguma evokes wandering, magnified by poetry, while Una, with lyrics by Elisapie, weaves a bittersweet lament to her birth mother that is affecting in its fragility. François Vallières has conjured for them a setting for large orchestra and throat singers. Nunami nipiit is divided into five sections played without break. The orchestra, sometimes pared down, accompanies Elisapie’s songs in the spirit of American minimalism à la John Adams in Qanniuguma and with great expressivity in Una. Drawing on melodic material developed by Elisapie, the orchestra also provides the introduction, transition and conclusion, the last on its tiptoes. A fruitful meeting of cultural universes, beyond time and space.
© François Filiatrault
Translation by Craig Schweickert