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Jerry Cans rock the Big Land

The Jerry Cans, from left, Gina Burgess (violin), Avery Keenainak (accordion, throat-singing), Steve Rigby (drums), Andrew Morrison (guitar, vocals) and Brendan Doherty (bass) performed in Postville Monday, June 25.
The Jerry Cans, from left, Gina Burgess (violin), Avery Keenainak (accordion, throat-singing), Steve Rigby (drums), Andrew Morrison (guitar, vocals) and Brendan Doherty (bass) performed in Postville Monday, June 25. - Thom Barker

Iqaluit band combines traditional styles with country, rock, reggae for National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations

POSTVILLE, N.L. – Introducing a song called “I don’t want to work”, Jerry Cans frontman Andrew Morrison had a message that resonated in Postville June 25.

“It’s important to remember to get out on the land, so don’t work too hard,” he said, drawing cheers and applause from the B.L. Morrison Community School gymnasium, where more than 100 of the town’s 180 residents had turned out to see the Iqaluit band’s show.

“The reaction’s been amazing, we’ve had more than half of each town, 70 per cent of these towns, coming out to our shows, screaming and energetic and celebrating,” Morrison said during an interview prior to the Postville concert.

The tour, sponsored by the Nunatsiavut government’s Department of Health and Social Development (DHSD), included Nain, Hopedale, Postville, Makkovik, Rigolet and Happy Valley-Goose Bay. It was the Jerry Cans’ first time in Labrador.

“It’s been the place that we, for some reason or another, haven’t been able to get to for a long time, so we’re finally making it happen because of some sponsorship from the Nunatsiavut government,” Morrison said.

He continued, “It’s been very cool to see how similar life is here to where we live in Iqaluit in Nunavut. We’ve travelled all of the circumpolar north because when we were growing up there wasn’t much music, there wasn’t much art that was happening that would come to our town, so we prioritized playing in the north. We’ve dreamed of coming here for so many years and it’s finally happening and it’s so cool to see and great to talk to people and people are very excited, which is nice too.”

Challenging times

The Jerry Cans sing in Inuktitut, combining throat-singing and traditional rhythms with influences of country, rock and even reggae. They celebrate global northern culture — Morrison cited the similarities in language, food, connection to the land and politics — but also address unique, pressing social issues, particularly youth suicide.

“In Nain, a young man took his own life a week ago or so and then this morning (June 25) we just heard about a friend of ours from our hometown who died by suicide, so that is a more challenging similarity, but it’s exactly why we’re doing what we’re doing, to try to connect with youth and communities to try to figure out a solution to that challenging problem, suicide in the north,” Morrison said.

In fact, sponsoring the tour was part of DHSD’s mental health programming, although no comment was provided to The Labradorian as of press time.

Morrison hopes when young people see the Jerry Cans celebrating the culture, loving life and singing in Inuktitut, it will have a positive impact.

“I think that’s what’s important,” he said. “The memorial for the young man (in Nain) was a few days ago, but I think after those tough times, it’s important to celebrate and to reflect on why those things happen, but also reflect and try to support and build on the beautiful things that are in these communities.

“It’s such a beautiful place and we’re just kind of humbled by all of the hospitality people are giving us even in those challenging times in communities. I think it’s important to remember how beautiful this place is.”

Good energy

National Indigenous Peoples Day was June 21, but Postville decided to postpone the celebration and combine it with the Jerry Cans visit. The town hosted a bonfire June 24 followed by a community potluck supper and the concert June 25. The band arrived at the supper directly from the airport.

“If you really want to hit a musician in their soul, in their heart, a home-cooked meal is a top priority,” Morrison said. “We come from the north so we love fish and seal and goose and that’s our soul food, so any chance to get that gives us some good energy.”

They got good energy back from the audience.

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