UPDATE: Kelly Fraser’s family has released a statement indicating she died by suicide.
Inuk singer Kelly Fraser, whose musical style blended folk, pop, hip hop and EDM with politically charged lyrics sung in both English and Inuktitut, has reportedly died at the age of 26.
Fraser died in her current home city of Winnipeg, Man., earlier this week, the Winnipeg Free Press reports.
A spokesperson for Winnipeg police told Global News he could not discuss any death if no alleged criminal activity was involved.
Fraser was a Juno Award-nominated singer with thousands of followers, particularly in Arctic communities such as her hometown of Sanikiluaq, Nunavut.
“Kelly sings and raps in both English and Inuktitut … to make the music speak to both Inuit and Qallunaat (‘southerners’),” her website says.
She rose to prominence in 2013 with a viral video cover of Rihanna‘s Diamonds, sung in Inuktitut. The video has been watched more than 380,000 times.
Fraser released her debut album Isuma in 2014. Her followup, Sedna, earned her a Juno Award nomination for best Indigenous music album in 2017. She received the Indspire Award in 2019 for “using modern pop music to strengthen Inuit culture and language and to promote the Inuit way of life to young people across Canada.”
Indspire also applauded Fraser for teaching Inuktitut songwriting classes and for opening up about her personal struggles with substance abuse and her father’s suicide.
Fraser had hoped to ride the momentum of her Indspire Award into her next album, Decolonize. She launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $60,000 for the album in late November.
“The reason that I need to make this album is to showcase my talents, to further strengthen my Inuit culture and language and to educate others about the trials and tribulations that happened on this land,” she wrote in the Kickstarter pitch.
She had planned to record the album in early 2020.
The GoFundMe campaign for Fraser’s three sisters has raised more than $27,000 in its first 24 hours, eclipsing the original goal of $5,000.
Messages of sympathy have come pouring in through the GoFundMe page and Fraser’s Facebook account.
“It’s sad when a life is taken away too early,” wrote GoFundMe donor George Noble.
“I didn’t know anything about Kelly’s music, but for her to have passed away at the dawn of a burgeoning career is heartbreaking, tragic and unfair,” added donor Joe Nachison.
Global News has reached out to Fraser’s management team for comment.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.
You can also call the Nunavut Kamatsiaqtut Helpline toll-free at 1-867-979-3333.