“My mom and her mother grew up in a gen­er­a­tion when it was il­le­gal to prac­tice In­dige­nous cul­ture.”

Exclaim! - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - JEREMY DUTCHER,

JEREMY DUTCHER IS A COM­POSER, ANTHROPOLOGICAL RE­SEARCHER, pi­anist, ac­tivist, clas­si­cally trained op­er­atic tenor and time trav­eller. If that last part sounds like a stretch, lis­ten to his ground­break­ing de­but al­bum, Wo­las­to­qiyik Lin­tuwakon­awa (Our Maliseet Songs). On it, he duets with ances­tral voices from his Wo­las­toq com­mu­nity in New Bruns­wick in or­der to reimag­ine and re­vive old songs for his com­mu­nity: past, present and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

“I be­lieve we are able to time travel through mu­sic,” Dutcher says over lunch at a cafe in Toronto’s Cab­bage­town neigh­bour­hood. “I know it sounds a lit­tle kooky.”

Dutcher be­gan re­search­ing what would be­come Wo­las­to­qiyik Lin­tuwakon­awa five years ago at the sug­ges­tion of his el­der, song car­rier Mag­gie Paul, who told him to visit the ar­chives at the Cana­dian Mu­seum of His­tory in Gatineau, QC, and lis­ten to the Wo­las­toq songs there. And he did. Recorded be­tween 1907 and 1914, and pre­served on wax cylin­ders, Dutcher says that of the over 100 songs recorded, more than 20 per­cent had de­te­ri­o­rated to the point of be­ing in­de­ci­pher­able, and most of the songs had been for­got­ten by his com­mu­nity, due to lack of ac­cess to the ma­te­ri­als.

“[Un­der the In­dian Act] there wasn’t a lot of space for peo­ple’s prac­tice of cul­ture,” Dutcher says. “My mom and her mother grew up in a gen­er­a­tion when it was il­le­gal to prac­tice In­dige­nous cul­ture. As Mag­gie says, ‘Our songs weren’t safe, so they had to go away for a while.’”

In his own way, Dutcher is car­ry­ing on the tra­di­tion of song car­ri­ers like Paul in bring­ing the songs back. But he didn’t re-record the songs ex­actly as he was hear­ing them. “I wanted to in­ject who I was into it, and I was af­firmed by read­ing [an­thro­pol­o­gist Wil­liam Mech­ling’s] field notes; each singer would take the melody, sing it a cou­ple times, then they would ex­plore and go on tan­gents, change the rhythm.”

Dutcher orig­i­nally wrote Wo­las­to­qiyik Lin­tuwakon­awa as cham­ber pieces, for pi­ano, strings and voice — no elec­tron­ics. “At a cer­tain point I thought, ‘Who is this project for?’ I want these songs to live with the young peo­ple.” He teamed up with Mon­treal’s De­von Bate, who did elec­tron­ics, and drum­mer Bran­don Val­divia (Lido Pimienta) as well as so­prano Teiya Kasa­hara and string play­ers to cre­ate the con­stel­la­tion of sounds on Wo­las­to­qiyik Lin­tuwakon­awa, which also in­cludes ex­cerpts from the ar­chives. It falls, Dutcher says, some­where be­tween A Tribe Called Red and Mon­treal pi­ano com­poser Jean-Michel Blais, while be­ing in­cred­i­bly re­gion­ally spe­cific.

“One of the shows I did at home, an old woman came up to me and said that her grand­mother used to sing ‘Ul­tes­takon (Shaker Lul­laby)’ to her when she was a kid. ‘You brought her into the space with that song,’ she said. ‘Thank you for do­ing that.’

“This isn’t go­ing to be the way I carry my artis­tic prac­tice through­out my life, I don’t think, but for this al­bum, it was very much a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween me and my com­mu­nity.”

For this al­bum, it was very much a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween me and my com­mu­nity.”

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