Kangiqliniq/Rankin Inlet – Kuuri Panika’s performance career is taking off, and quickly.
Some may know the 28-year-old Rankin Inlet performer as Corey, but he’s decided to go by the name his grandfather calls him.
Panika plays the guitar and sings.
“My music is based on life, trying to remind people life is beautiful and worth living. My first song was about suicide, first time making it public,” said Panika via e-mail from Kingston, Ont. “I was just hoping to help people with my music, that was my goal.”
That was in December 2015, and he hasn’t looked back.
He says music and mental health go together because “some people think they have no one to turn to during hard times, so some turn to music, even just a song.”
Panika is the latest performer to join the cast of Kiviuq Returns, hot on the heels of recording a new song at a songwriting workshop organized by Alianait in Iqaluit this March.
“They needed a strong singer, so (the coordinator) asked me if I’m interested. It’s very exciting. Never got into acting and I like trying new things, plus we are travelling a lot, which is always nice. I’m meeting such great people with loving hearts,” he said.
Kiviuq Returns, in rehearsal now at the Isabel Bader Performing Arts Centre in Kingston, and later in Banff, will tour June to August, with a stop July 21 and 22 at the National Arts Centre Studio in Ottawa.
Alianait festival-goers will have their own opportunity to view the performance July 3 in Iqaluit.
Actor and director Sheena Akoomalik of Pond Inlet and Gemini and Genie award-winning actress Martha Burns are co-directing the piece, which according to program notes “is a new creation that brings together music, dancing, brilliant costumes, elder storytelling, and Inuit actors of all ages to recount Kiviuq’s heroism, from ancient times through colonization and a future illuminated by story and song.”
Panika is also performing at Alianait’s July 2 concert.
“It feels great having the opportunity to do so. Never performed there before, very excited,” he said, adding he’s always had a thing for music and singing, even as a child.
“The guitar was something I picked up to challenge myself, which is still challenging today. It’s always nice to learn new things. I was mostly self-taught but had a lot of influence from other Inuk artists, such as Charlie Panigoniak. He always advised me to keep going with music.”
The song Panika recorded in Iqaluit – Quviasugitsi – can be heard on the Alianait website.
“It’s a song I wrote to remind people to be happy, to forget about the hate and show the love. There is enough hate in this world. Happiness is key to a better life.”
He writes and sings in Inuktitut. He says it’s important.
“Because our language is already dying, and I love my language.”
Asked what other passions he has, Panika said he always loved being on the Bombardier, working hard with his uncles, transporting vehicles. One such trip ended in a harrowing accident in January. The young performer lost his three uncles.
“The accident still haunts me today, but collaborations, workshops and my guitar always help me get through,” he said.
“And I have such a loving family who are always supportive. My approach to life is still the same. I still try my best to help anyone I can when I can.”
He says performance is his life.
“I love what I do.”