SNOTTY NOSE REZ KIDS

Exclaim! - - BEST OF 2018 -

Mag­gie Paul has seen gen­er­a­tions of Indige­nous peo­ple in the Wa­banaki Con­fed­er­acy on the East coast work dili­gently to­ward this mo­ment of cul­tural restora­tion and Indige­nous artis­tic ex­cel­lence. “What I wanted was [for] our an­ces­tors to hear the mu­sic. Be­cause a long time ago, they thought they would never hear it again, when the boats started com­ing over — the white peo­ple. We weren’t al­lowed to sing or do any of our cer­e­monies, so our songs went un­der too. Some of the songs, the Anishi­naabe took them with them to save them. Some of the songs we now sing have been res­cued.”

Two gen­er­a­tions later, Dutcher con­tin­ues the mo­men­tum of this work. As part of Dutcher’s un­der­grad­u­ate stud­ies at Dal­housie Univer­sity, he be­gan re­search­ing Wo­las­toq mu­sic, and re­turned to Paul to as­sist with his re­search. Paul was aware of the Wo­las­toq lan­guage wax cylin­der record­ings stored at the Mu­seum of His­tory in Ot­tawa, and urged Dutcher to go to the source.

“[Mag­gie Paul] said if you’re re­ally in­ter­ested in these songs, you can’t stay around here. I came to re­al­ize later that a lot of the song-mak­ing that was hap­pen­ing in our com­mu­nity at the time was ac­tu­ally not in our mu­sic. It was mu­sic com­ing from else­where, from neigh­bour­ing com­mu­ni­ties, stuff that wasn’t in our lan­guage, it was stuff that pro­lif­er­ated through things like pow­wow cul­ture — stuff that isn’t of us, but stood in as a place­holder. Be­cause es­pe­cially on the East coast, we’ve had the long­est point of con­tact and cul­tural fric­tion, putting it del­i­cately. [That’s] what Mag­gie was try­ing to sig­nal to me: If you want to know what was hap­pen­ing here, in our lan­guage that comes from this land, you need to go to the mu­seum.”

Ex­plor­ing these ar­chives be­came foun­da­tional for Wo­las­to­qiyik

Lin­tuwakon­awa, which sam­ples and is in­spired by the mu­sic he found there, but Dutcher is adamant that “it was never my in­ten­tion to go to the mu­seum and write an al­bum. It was sim­ply to wit­ness, to sit down and see what there was. But of course, once I heard it and came in con­tact with it, it was an im­mense sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity to share it, to get it back to the com­mu­nity.”

Snotty Nose Rez Kids are an im­por­tant re­minder that Indige­nous mu­sic and iden­tity are not na­tional mono­liths, and as much pride as they feel see­ing other Na­tions rep­re­sented, it’s not the same as pre­sent­ing their own. “We grew up watch­ing A Tribe Called Red bring­ing out pow­wow dancers and lis­ten­ing to their sound, which is all East coast-in­flu­enced,” Nyce ac­knowl­edges. “We re­ally wanted to put our peo­ples out on stage, and put West coast re­galia on a stage like that.”

Nyce is un­der­stand­ably hes­i­tant to as­cribe too much to this mo­ment of main­stream recog­ni­tion. “[ We] have al­ways been artis­tic peo­ple. We are peo­ple of oral tra­di­tions, so we cre­ate art, whether that be totem poles, masks or paint­ings. Our art is our writ­ten lan­guage. So as far as the re­nais­sance goes, for me I wouldn’t call it a re­birth, it’s more of a re-awak­en­ing, be­cause our peo­ple were si­lenced and held back from our po­ten­tial by the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment and the so­ci­ety that we live in. Our al­bum, that was nom­i­nated for the Po­laris, speaks ex­actly to that.”

The en­thu­si­asm that Mag­gie Paul ex­presses for this cur­rent wave of Indige­nous mu­sic is pal­pa­ble. “‘Re­nais­sance,’ yes! Since time be­gan, we were al­ways like that. And now it’s al­most like an ex­plo­sion, but an ex­plo­sion of hap­pi­ness, like fire­works. When you see them, it’s so in­tense and it’s beau­ti­ful.”

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