Iñupiaq Hip Hop with Allison Akootchook Warden

The North by North Festival held in Anchorage, Alaska this past April brought together innovators from Alaska, the nation and other Arctic regions to collaborate and address local and circumpolar challenges through business, design, film, music, food, literature and art.

2018 NACF National Artist Fellow, Allison Akootchook Warden, attended the festival and participated in a panel featuring hip hop artists from the Arctic. Warden is a hip hop artist who engages her audience with stories and themes of the Iñupiaq people, paying homage to tradition while bringing a fresh perspective to contemporary issues. The panel included a screening of the documentary film “WE UP: Indigenous Hip Hop in the Circumpolar North”, a project produced by the Anchorage Museum and led by Aaron Leggett (Dena’ina Athabascan), Anchorage Museum Curator of Alaska History and Culture. Along with Warden, and also featured in the film, were rapper Ailu Valle of the Sámi village of Kaamasmukka (Gámasmohkki) in Utsjoki, the northernmost municipality of Finland, and Aqqalu Engell, better known under his stagename Uyarakq, a Greenlandic Inuit electronic musician, producer and DJ, who Warden is collaborating with for an Iñupiaq language album this year.

Though still in production, “WE UP: Indigenous Hip Hop in the Circumpolar North” is a compelling introduction to hip hop artists in the Arctic and the segment featuring Warden was one of several highlights of the documentary. During the panel discussion post-screening, Warden described her relationship to Uyarakq, with whom she is currently collaborating. His experience producing Native language music inspired her to script an album composed entirely in her Native language, something she had not anticipated was marketable and that would appeal to her listeners. She said that releasing a Native language album pushes her to learn her language in more depth and promotes language preservation. What was also striking about the panel was a broader sense of collaboration amongst the artists living in different countries across the Arctic and the impact of hip hop as a worldwide phenomena even in remote geographic areas.

Warden will travel to an Indigenous music festival in Norway this summer, Riddu Riddu, to perform with her fellow panelists in the “Circumpolar Hip Hop Collab”. She is also currently working with Uyarakq to develop the first drafts of the new album, an anticipated three-volume work.