When Elisapie Isaac started working on Inuktitut, a cover album of classic songs translated into Inuktitut, she expected it to be a little, personal project.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and now, [I’m] realizing that it had moved people everywhere — not just my family, but also all the North, and also non-Northern people, non-Indigenous people,” said the Inuk singer-songwriter.

Inuktitut was nominated for two Juno awards, and, on Sunday, won Elisapie the award for contemporary Indigenous artist of the year. (The second nomination was for album artwork of the year, which was awarded to Nicolas Lemieux, Mykaël Nelson and Albert Zablit for Riopelle Symphonique, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal.)

The album has 10 tracks, translating Heart, Metallica, Pink Floyd and more.

“Although they’re not my songs, this album is probably my most personal album, because these are Inuit stories. These are my stories, these are my family’s stories, my cousins’ stories,” she said.

“This is really not so much about the songs, but the emotions that we were able to feel through these songs.”

For Elisapie, the nominations were a recognition of all the people who helped and inspired her along the way.

“Not only the technical part of the album, but … it’s a lot of my cousins who’ve passed through, you know, suicide. We all know this reality too well,” she said. 

“It’s a lot of these people that I was able to remember — and remember our memories, how we used to wanna just simply dance and find joy in all the chaos. I think it’s a lot of them that I need to acknowledge and pay tribute [to].”

All of that came together with the help of Joe Grass, who produced and arranged the album.

“[That] was very precious, because he was able to just listen and … really take the time to understand the emotions that were hidden,” she said.

Though she’s been nominated in the past, and won a Juno in 2005 for her album Taima, she said the recent nominations still make her feel proud.

“I’m just really overjoyed,” she said.

A full list of Juno winners and nominees is available here.

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