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Blazing a trail
Rankin musician thrilled by Panigoniak taking award

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The accolades keep coming for Kivalliq musical legend Charlie Panigoniak, who was given the 2016 Nunavut Commissioner's Performing Arts Award on Nov. 7.

NNSL photo/graphic

David Nanorak belts out a tune during a benefit concert for Charlie Panigoniak at the Mark Kalluak Hall in Arviat this past summer. Panigoniak was named winner of the 2016 Nunavut Commissioner's Award for the Performing Arts on Nov. 7. - photo courtesy of Eric Anoee

Panigoniak, 70, will receive $10,000 and a commissioner's medallion for earning the award.

Long looked up to by scores of Nunavummiut artists for his four decades of singing and songwriting, all in Inuktitut, Panigoniak has been battling Parkinson's disease for the past 10 years.

He did manage, however, to quell his fear of flying and find the strength to travel to Arviat for a benefit concert in his honour at the Mark Kalluak Hall this past summer.

It was an emotional evening that saw numerous artists take to the stage and perform only Panigoniak songs.

Rankin Inlet recording artist Sam Tutanuak was filled with joy to hear Panigoniak received this year's performing arts award.

Tutanuak said Panigoniak has always been someone he looks up to.

He said the trailblazing efforts of Panigoniak showed him local musicians do, in fact, have a chance at success.

"What it, basically, boiled down to for me was that Charlie showed me I had a chance of achieving musical notoriety one day, too," said Tutanuak.

"Charlie and I have somebody in common in that we both went through the same production company in Randall Prescott.

"Panigoniak got a great deal of publicity, and rightly so, through Prescott.

"I got to use Randall on my CD, as well, and it was Panigoniak who made me believe if he could do it, why can't I."

In fact, Tutanuak did receive his share of notoriety when the song, The Three Musicians, from his Utiqpungaa (I've Returned) CD hit number one on the Aboriginal Music Countdown for three straight weeks.

Tutanuak said Panigoniak proudly carried the Inuit banner at a time when not many were out there doing it.

He said thanks to the way Panigoniak presented himself and wrote his Inuktitut songs, it gave life to artists such as himself and Tim Evik out of Pangnirtung.

"Tim is a big supporter of Panigoniak and the benefits his work brought to Inuit musicians.

"I remember being about 10 or 12 years old and living in Baker Lake when I first heard Panigoniak's music.

"I was like, cool, that's catchy when I first heard his songs.

"It really made an impression on me."

Tutanuak said Panigoniak's music impacted a lot of musicians in the Kivalliq.

He said his style of playing opened a lot of eyes in the region.

"People really caught onto his simple strumming technique and began learning how to play it.

"It was also pretty cool to hear him singing in Inuktitut.

"It's a well-deserved award for a man who has done wonders for musicians right across Nunavut.

"Many people in Arviat almost worship the ground he walks on, so that's quite a legacy the man has."

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