Kelly Fraser, a Canadian pop artist who gained attention for an Inuit-language cover of Rihanna’s “Diamonds,” part of her advocacy efforts for her indigenous culture, has died. Fraser was 26.
Thor Simonsen, Fraser’s friend and producer, said he was told the day after Christmas by the singer-songwriter’s family that she had died. The family declined to release details, including the cause of death, Simonsen said Saturday (Dec. 28).
Fraser, who grew up in Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, Canada, and was living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, released Isuma, her debut album, in 2014. Her sophomore album, Sedna, came out in 2017 and was nominated for indigenous music album of the year at Canada’s Juno music awards.
When Fraser wrote or translated songs into Inuktitut, an Inuit language, a key aim was to “use pop music as a platform to strengthen her language,” Simonsen said. She also wanted to make the music as accessible to as many people as possible, he said, so she mixed English and Inuktitut in her recordings and blended traditional Inuit sounds and themes with contemporary pop.
A video of her version of “Diamonds” was widely viewed online.
Fraser was “extremely passionate about trying to improve conditions for Inuit people” as well, and wanted to help young people understand the history that contributed to their difficulties, Simonsen said.
In a 2017 statement that accompanied the release of Sedna, Fraser said the album’s goal was to heal those suffering from the results of colonization, including the ”damaging effects of residential school and forced relocation. There is a great need for Inuit artists to directly speak to those affected from the past.”
She was working on a third album, Decolonize, at the time of her death, Simonsen said.