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Prize-winning songwriter almost didn't submit
Song makes 'huge impression' on QIA selection committee

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services
Saturday, March 11, 2017

Arctic Bay's Leetia Kalluk deliberated long and hard about whether or not she would submit her original song to the Qikiqtani Inuit Association's (QIA) Inuktitut Literacy Month song and poem contest.

NNSL photo/graphic

Leetia Kalluk, of Arctic Bay, seen here with classmates at Nunavut Sivuniksavut in Ottawa, took first place in the Qikiqtani Inuit Association's Inuktitut song and poem contest held in February. - photo courtesy of Leetia Kalluk

At the last minute, she did - and she won the $400 first prize with Come Closer.

"I had a lot to think about before I put it out there," said the 18-year-old Nunavut Sivuniksavut student.

"It was pretty complicated. I was wondering if I should put it out there or not. Until the deadline of the contest. Finally, I thought, 'OK, I'll just put it out here.' It took me pretty long to decide."

She says submitting the song took her friends' encouragement.

Kalluk's song, written and sung in Inuktitut, is a love song, and she says it can be from a man to a woman, a woman to a man, or to a mother or siblings.

"Or friends," she adds.

In a news release, QIA stated, "Her sweet song about love and longing made a huge impression on our selection committee."

Kalluk writes love songs mostly, but also songs about hope.

"It's going to be okay. Just keep moving forward," Kalluk explained.

"It all started with my brother, Bryan. He would play guitar and I would sing. He taught me a little bit of chords. But after he moved away . At school, we had a music class. I learned how to play proper guitar there."

She was 15 when she first started strumming and writing. She writes in Inuktitut syllabics.

"It's something I love to do. It's my therapy. I used to play cover songs, until I thought, 'How about I write my own songs. Maybe that will help me with some stuff I need to let out, something I have to get out of my chest.' It did help and that's what made me plan to write music."

Her brother and music teacher Adrian Dzioba were not her only source of inspiration. She looks up to singer/songwriter Becky Han, who is also from Arctic Bay.

"She inspires me so much," said Kalluk. "And Joshua Haulli (Iglulik) and Mary Poisey (Pangnirtung) - they're the ones who inspire me to keep going. They're amazing. They're all young, and they're very talented. That's what inspires me."

Kalluk will likely pursue a career in music - she's looking at McGill University - or a career as a make-up artist. Those are her two main interests.

Meanwhile, about the win, Kalluk says it was unexpected.

And the friends who encouraged her?

"They were in the same state I was. So speechless and surprised. We were all just screaming and jumping around."

She plans to use the $400 to pay off school-related activities.

To listen to Kalluk's winning song, follow the link on QIA's Facebook page.

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