Singer of the land
When I’m out walking on land, wherever I am, I hear melodies. It usually starts with a little tune, and as I hum it and walk, more melodies come crawling out of the first. Sometimes they evaporate, they have no stickiness, and I let them go. Sometimes they seem to want to stay and grow. I become fond of them as I walk. I record them, singing into my phone, to give them a chance to grow up into songs.
Occasionally I feel like there are a few melodies that wish to play together, and they need to be voiced over top of each other. Like a bass line, or a descant, from the world of western music. My Anishinaabe Brother, dear friend, and Elder, Rene Meshake, has taught me that for the Anishinaabe, the music is in the land. I only need to listen and I can hear it. I know that my relatives likely spoke Brayette, a language that combined French and Anishinaabe, and is now lost. Working with Rene, his encouragement has led me to trust myself and to value the music I’m hearing. We have been co-creating since 2017. These days I share my little melodies in a sound file and write a letter, sharing where I was, the time of day and I describe it all- the weather, the water, the wind, or the birds, whatever seemed to lift that melody up out of the land to me. He writes lyrics in English and Anishinaabe and often plays with the melodies in his own creative way using his electronic studio. I love working with Rene and I am grateful for the courage he has given me to listen and start to share these songs. The collaboration has been transformative for me
I have spent a 30 plus year career interpreting the work of great composers. I have labored to honour their vision, their words, melodies and technical requirements to lift up their songs.
I've now come to a time when I want to tell stories with my voice that I care about. Not to further a career. Or meet the expectations of an industry. All the years of developing technique to sing in so many different styles, leads me to this moment when my voice is a paint box that I can use to colour and shade the musical stories I write, and that I feel compelled to engage in.
Below are links to some of the songs from the land I’ve heard on my walks, and in my dream life. There are more being added on Soundcloud regularly as I compose. Please check it out. If you wish to sing one of the traditional drum songs I’ve created, or wish to share these with your drum group, please send me a note so that I may grant permission, and the songs can be shared in a good way. I feel I am their caretaker. I want to share them. I want to share their stories and, as a mother does with her children, support them as they travel on their way to other communities. Recently I shared a song, and a Cree man came to ask if he could take the song back to his community for ceremony, and put the Cree language in. He gifted me tobacco and smudge. I was humbled to share that song, and hope it is healing others as it travels on its journey.
All my relations.