The Discovery Channel’s new reality TV series Flying Wild Alaska follows Jim Tweto’s family and crew of bush pilots as they provide a lifeline to Alaska’s most remote locales. Tweto’s wife and daughters are local Inupiaq, and their family business services many Native villages. Discovery Channel producers thought a Native soundtrack fitting, so they approached ThunderCloud Radio for help last summer. ThunderCloud Radio is dedicated to indigenous hip-hop, soul, reggae and R&B. The online station began broadcasting from Washington State in 2008 to showcase artists “from Alaska to Greenland,” says DJ Pamela Rae. The TV show producers wanted an Inuit rapper’s words to introduce each episode. And Rae knew just the artist: Peand-eL.
But Peand-eL isn’t Alaskan.
“When they approached me, at first it was strange, because the show is in Alaska and I speak Greenlandic, but I was very happy they chose me,” he said. Peand-eL (aka Peter Lyberth—his artist name comes from his initials “P” and “L”) is Kalaalleq from Greenland. He has two albums with Atlantic Records, and recently formed an indie studio for this upcoming third album, Taallineq, which translates to “Silhouette” (due to be released in May). He now works in Greenland’s capital Nuuk, but he grew up with life experiences similar to those living in northern Alaska, and remembers how helicopters used to fly essentials into his hometown of Qeqercarsuaq. Lyberth raps in Greenlandic, but says he can communicate with Alaska’s Inuktitut speakers, albeit with some difficulty. Nevertheless, he’s happy to act as an ambassador for the Arctic’s indigenous rappers.
“I will never, ever rap in English or Danish because I honor my own language,” says Lyberth. “I was born with it, and it’s more fitting for me to rap in Greenlandic. It’s more emotional.” His theme song for the TV show tells a story about Alaska’s bush pilots. He said it’s quite different from his typical lyrics, which confront darker issues such as alcoholism, sexually transmitted diseases and loneliness. Lyberth wrote his own lyrics, and Discovery Channel producer D.J. Nurre combined the rap with music from Lumbee and Tuscarora R& B singer Jana Mashonee to create “Frozen Sky.”
Aside from Peand-eL and Jana Mashonee, the series features a number of other Native acts. Three are from Greenland: Kimmernaq (pop/rock), TuuMotz (hip hop) and Nanook (techno). And Pamyua (funk) and Frozen Whitefish (rock/blues) are from Alaska.