A new children’s book by a famous Indigenous musical duo shines a light on Arctic music.
Maakusie loves music is a brilliantly illustrated book by couple Chelsey June and Jaaji, otherwise known as the acclaimed folk-rock band Twin Flames.
This is a first foray into children’s literature for the duo, who wanted to introduce young readers to the world of traditional and modern Inuit music.
The story follows Maakusie, a young Inuit boy, as he practices throat singing, or katajjaniq in Inuktitut, sings ajaajaa songs, and learns to drum and learn about Inuit musical traditions from his grandmother.
The story showcases Inuit musical traditions from across the North, even extending as far as Greenland.
“Growing up in the North, the folk scene was very prevalent in my youth, and then all of a sudden the music grew from there,” Jaaji said.
The members of Twin Flames sing in a mix of English, French and Inuktitut and come from mixed Indigenous backgrounds – June is Métis (Algonquin-Cree heritage) from Ottawa, and Jaaji is Inuk and Mohawk from Nunavik and Kahnawake.
“Even though I’m far from the North now, I still have my ears glued to the ground and I see a lot of things happening [in music]“, said Jaaji.
“That’s kind of what we wanted to capture in this book,” June added.
“There’s so much talent, there’s so much love, there’s so much community and it shows the outside world what kind of gems exist up there in the Arctic.”
Maakusie’s grandmother also figures prominently in the story, just as elders play a vital role in indigenous cultures.
“Oral traditions are something that have been passed down from generation to generation,” Jaaji said.
The couple knew they wanted certain clothing and hairstyles to be represented in both modern and traditional Inuit culture. These images are brought to life through Tamara Campeau’s vibrant digital illustrations.
They also wanted to highlight interesting developments in musical styles, such as the popularity of marching bands in the Arctic.
“I think a big part of this project is what we could bring into a school or into a home, because every time we do presentations the kids are just fascinated by where Jaaji is from, by the Arctic and through music,” June said.
Music is not only an important creative outlet for people, it is also an educational tool for children.
“I wish there were more when I was growing up in schools,” June said.
“Some kids learn differently, and I was definitely one of those kids.”
The duo hope the book will expose more young people to Arctic music and inspire them to learn more.
They also hope Maakusie can take readers on more adventures in the future.
“I think he has a lot he can share through character. We hope we can expand this series a bit,” June said.
“We have seen with our own eyes how music can help save lives. It literally saved my life time and time again.
Maakusie loves music will be available starting Thursday online and through Iqaluit publisher Inhabit Media.