I stood on the shoulders
Of a monster of concrete and steel
Not knowing what to say
Not knowing how to feel.
How are we ever to live
How shall we ever last
Waging a war between
The present and the past?
300 years of history
Washed away without a trace
At the gathering place.
These are lyrics from “Gathering Place,” one of the songs from Susan Aglukark’s latest album, Unsung Heroes. Obviously Chisasibi’s story touched Susan’s heart, and that feeling is reflected in this wistful song.
Unsung Heroes is Susan’s fourth album, and it contains 12 new songs, all co-written by Susan. The music on this CD is relaxed and easy to listen to. It doesn’t demand anything of the listener except “accept and be proud of who you are.”
Susan’s last album, This Child, went triple-platinum, and on it Susan performed songs in Inuktitut and English. After extensive touring she realized her audience is more diverse than she had expected.
Her latest album branches out and celebrates not just Aboriginal issues, but more universal, human issues, and all of the songs are sung in English.
In most of the songs, the drums provide a strong foundation beneath Susan’s voice. Hers is not the most impressive or expressive voice, but it’s clear, soft and lilting. We noticed that she mentions her vocal coach in the CD credits, and you can really hear a difference in her sound and style from her last album. Her singing has grown stronger, and although she doesn’t have the biggest voice, her message comes through loud and clear.
“One Turn Deserves Another” is the first single from Unsung Heroes, and it has an upbeat melody that you’ll find yourself humming throughout your day. The video is popular and rotated heavily on Much-moremusic.
“Stand Up” is a positive song with an uplifting chorus. Susan encourages listeners to “stand up for the dignity that’s brought you here so far.”
“Turn of the Century” is a joyful song celebrating the new territory of Nunavut. Susan sings about it as “the time of your life, a chance to be heard, a chance to make right with those who are gone and those who will be at the helm of it all.”
There are also some sad songs on Unsung Heroes. We see a darker side of Susan’s perspective in “Never be the Same,” a ballad about tuberculosis victims who were sent to urban hospitals, often dying far away from their northern families and homes.
Another solemn song is “E186,” which reflects on the 1930s government policy to identify all Inuit people with dog tags.
Susan’s message is one of healing and growing into yourself, taking pride in your history and having faith in what the future will bring.
Take a listen to this album, and see for yourself what a great example Susan has made of herself.