Acclaimed Montréal-based singer/songwriter, musician, actor and activist Elisapie Issac (best known as the mononymic Elisapie) was born and raised in Salluit, a small village in Nunavik, Québec’s northernmost region. In this extremely remote community, accessible only by plane, Issac was raised by an extended, yet slightly dysfunctional adoptive family. Growing up in Salliut, she lived through the loss of cousins who ended their lives. experienced young love, danced the night away at the village’s community center and witnessed first hand, the effects of colonialism — i.e., poverty, hopelessness, alcoholism, suicide, and more.
A teenaged Issac began performing on stage with her uncles, who were members of Sugluk (also known as Salliut Band), a famous and well-regarded Inuit rock band. She also worked at TNI, the village’s radio station, which broadcast across the region. And while working for the radio station, the teenaged Issac managed to secure an interview with Metallica.
Much like countless bright and ambitious young people across the world, Issac moved to the big city — in this case, Montréal to study and, ultimately, pursue a career in music. Since then, her work, whether within the confines of a band or as a solo artist, her unconditional attachment to her native territory, its people, and to her language, Inuktitut is at the core of her work. Spoken for millennia, Inuktitut embodies the harshness of its environment and the wild yet breathtaking beauty of the Inuit territory. Thematically, her work frequently pairs Intuit themes and concerns with modern rock music, mixing tradition with modernity in a deft fashion.
She won her first Juno Award as a member of Taima, and since then Issac’s work has received rapturous critical acclaim: 2018’s The Ballad of the Runaway Girl was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize, earned her a number of Association du disque, de l’industrie du spectacle Québeécois (ADISQ) Felix Awards and a Juno Award nod. She followed up with a performance with the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal — at the invitation of Grammy Award-winning maestro Yannick Nézet Séguin — at Central Park SummerStage, a NPR Tiny Desk Session and headlining or festival sets both locally and internationally.
In her native Canada, Issac is also known as an actor, starting in the TV series Motel Paradis and C.S. Roy’s experimental indie film VFC, which was released earlier this year. She’s also graced the cover of a number of nationally known magazines including Châtelaine, Elle Québec and a long list of others. And as a devoted activist, she created and produced the first nation-wide broadcast TV show to celebrate National Indigenous People’s Day.
Slated for a September 15, 2023 release through Bonsound, Issac’s forthcoming album Inuktiut features inventive re-imaginings of songs by Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Blondie, Fleetwood Mac, Metallica and more. These are all acts and artists that the acclaimed Inuk artist received permission from. Elisapie has imbued each song with both depth and purpose, an act of cultural reappropriation that reinvigorates the poetry of these 10 classics by placing them within Inuit traditions. The album’s first single “Uummati Attanarsimat (Heart of Glass),” caught the attention of the legendary Debbie Harry.
The album’s second and latest single is a gorgeous and fairly faithful Inuktiut adaptation of Cyndi Lauper‘s 1983 Rob Hyman co-written smash hit “Time After Time” that retains the familiar beloved melody of the original paired with a percussive yet atmospheric arrangement and Issac’s gorgeous, achingly tender delivery.
Much like her previous single, “Taimangalimaaq (Time After Time)” was inspired by a childhood memory of Elisapie’s aunt Alasie and her cousin Susie:
“I was able to get through my pre-teen years, thanks to my Aunt Alasie, as my mother had neither the knowledge nor the experience to give me a crash course on puberty, fashion or social relationships,” Isaac recalls. “In addition to entering a new chapter in my life, we were in the midst of the 80’s and modernity was shaking up our traditional methods. My mother’s generation had lived in Igloos, and the cultural changes were too swift.
Despite her struggles, my aunt ensured I felt accepted and exposed me to new and modern things like TV, clothes, dancing, Kraft Dinner and make-up!
Whenever I went to my aunt’s house, I was in awe of my older girl cousins. They were all so cool and stylish, and they loved pop music and the crazy makeup of the 80s and early 90s. One of my favorite memories is listening to the radio with them and hearing Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time’ for the first time. It was like a lightning bolt, and I couldn’t separate the song or the artist from my older cousin Susie. For me, the song was all about her search for beauty, connection, love, and rising above pain.”
Directed by Philippe Léonard and edited by Omar Elhamy, the accompanying video for “Taimangalimaaq (Time After Time)” features home video-shot footage of dances, performances and games at her beloved community center, of kids just being kids and a slow yet steady encroachment of modernity as we see at least one kid popping and locking like Crazylegzs or least trying to do so. The video is a lovingly nostalgic look at the acclaimed Inuk’s community and of her childhood, making the video a meditation on the passing of time, and in some way the impact of pop culture on a young person trying to find their place in a changing world.