As the call goes out for this year's Qilaut songwriting competition, last year's winner is encouraging aspiring lyricists and singer-songwriters to enter, saying that winning the prize has changed her life for the better.
Arctic Bay singer-songwriter Becky Han is encouraging Nunavut musicians and lyricists to enter Qilaut 2017. She entered the songwriting contest last year and won $7,500. Han says that winning the award has dramatically changed her life for the better. - photo courtesy of Becky Han
Arctic Bay resident Becky Han, 28, won both first and second prize in Qilaut 2016, picking up $7,500 in total for her two songs - $5,000 for first place, and $2,500 for second.
"I came close to not entering last year, thinking there would be more talented contestants than me. I was second-guessing myself," Han said. "But then I thought, I'm just going to go for it and see what happens. I'm really glad I did because if I hadn't entered and won then I would not have gotten the opportunities that I've had."
Those opportunities have included opening for Inuit superstar Tanya Tagaq at a concert in Winnipeg back in March.
Han said that for last year's competition, she sent a recording of her performing her two songs and a copy of the lyrics.
Both of her songs, recorded in Inuktitut, ended up on a compilation album featuring the top 10 songs submitted for the competition.
"My first place song is called '786.' When you are out on the land camping, you use CB radios to communicate back to the community because that's the only way you can connect between communities and campsites," Han said. "My mother's CB radio identifying number is 786. It's about me being out hunting, communicating with my mother back and forth about how the hunt was going."
Han's second song, 'Qaariaq', is about her as a child being chased by a bumblebee for five days as she ran all over Nunavut. She said Qaariaq is a word used to scare off bumblebees. Han said she was ticked to see a video posted on Facebook recently of three Nunavut toddlers looking out the window singing her song about being chased by a bumblebee. She wondered if they were singing it because they had seen a bumblebee.
She said writing her songs in the Inuit language is very important to her.
"I get a lot of pride from it. Most of my songs are in Inuktitut. I feel like it's my small part in trying to preserve the language," Han said. "To have more modern Inuktitut songs out there leads to more young people exploring the language and I want to see that keep growing. I think that's one big way we are going to help preserve the language, particularly with young people."
Han said she hasn't yet decided whether she will enter this year's contest. Born and raised in Arctic Bay, Han is a married mother of two. She said that keeps her very busy, but she still works on her music when she finds the time.
Qilaut 2017 is open to songwriters between the ages of 13 and 30. According to a news release from the Department of Culture and Heritage, the contest celebrates the territory's vibrant Inuktut music scene and promotes the use of Inuktut.
The top three prizes are $5,000, $2,500, and $1,500. Winning submissions will be recorded professionally for a compilation album to be distributed in February 2018 during Uqausirmut Quviasuutigarniq, Nunavut's annual celebration of Inuktut and Inuit culture.