He's been called both the Elvis Presley and the Bob Dylan of the Inuit and was the first Inuk musician ever to record in a commercial studio, in the early '70s. He had such a bad cold at the time that the vocals came out severely strained and nasal-sounding, but this didn't bother the producers who assumed this was the way Inuit music was supposed to sound. The public's understanding of Inuit music may never climb above that level. Although there has been some exposure to the "throat-singing" style, many still assume Inuit music must be like that of any other native American tribe, with a group of people gathered around a drum, playing and singing. In reality, many native Americans have always had an affinity for country & western, and Panigoniak is proof it isn't too cold for country up where he comes from.
Panigoniak was brought up in the vast, desolate stretches of the Northwest Territories. One of his songs tells the harsh tale of his family almost starving to death until a fellow villager rescued them and served them some caribou broth. As a youngster he watched Johnny Cash on the Ed Sullivan Show, playing on the television in a sanatorium where Pangoniak was sent to recover from tuberculosis. Cash inspired him to want to make audiences happy with music, and it is with the Man in the Black that Panigoniak is most similar, not Elvis or Dylan. Like Cash, he explores a range of subjects in his songs that extends well beyond the standard country & western milieu. Cash's affinity for frontier life, the strength of individuality, and the importance of family are all themes that an Inuit can certainly sink his teeth into.
Panigoniak was never comfortable singing in English, and while some of his fellow Inuit musicians were content doing country & western cover songs, Panigoniak began creating his own songs, in his own language. He accompanies himself on guitar and frequently changes the words to his songs to suit the mood of a concert. Many of his songs describe situations he experienced growing up, and he has dedicated several of his songs to his father, whom he credits as his greatest influence. He recorded regularly since that first session. His material is mostly heard in Canada, where he has been active on the CBC. The CBC North programs are famous for broadcasting Inuit talent and recordings over thousands and thousands of miles of Arctic wilderness as well as exposing the inhabitants therein to a wide range of music from the North American scene. Panigoniak himself has worked as a radio broadcaster for CBC Kivalliq in Rankin Inlet. His colleagues on the Inuit music scene include William Tagoona, Madeleine Allakariallak, and Lucy Idlout. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi