Singing For Life in Attawapiskat – Part 2

The title, “Hope,” was suggested by Vezina Secondary school student Tyson Sutherland, who was already writing on that theme. The other students  approved, and they worked in small groups on contributing lines and stanzas. Photos of their first drafts appear in the video.

The form of the song took  shape under the strong influence of two songs we listened to a great deal over the course of the week. One they knew before our arrival, and many had already learned the chords on the guitar. It was Zombie, by the Cranberries. One girl who played it very well said she liked the song’s mood—dark. The other was Rumble, by Shawnee artist of the 50s and 60s, Link Wray, to whom we introduced most of them through the class time curriculum.

One part of the planned curriculum that largely (but not completely) fell by the wayside due to our unexpected (naive!) discovery that it wasn’t March break in Attawapiskat, was the sharing of their own tastes in music. This happened less formally, and to the greatest extent back at Jackie and Norbert’s place with the smaller groups that visited us there almost every evening.  Their tastes were, unsurprisingly, very much in line with kids their age everywhere. They listen to Hip Hop, Rap, New Country, and Classic Rock.

Several also took part in drum circles within their Cree tradition, and this fact also made its way into the conversation and the composition. This interest in popular music lent itself to engagement with the rock stars and celebrities interviewed in the movie Rumble, but we think there’s a telling irony in being introduced to Apache drummer Randy Castillo by way of Ozzie Osbourne’s bassist: they’d all heard of Ozzie.

Between their diverse familiarity with rap, country and spoken word they also found John Trudell and Jesse Ed Davis’s collaboration easy to get into. So, running out of time, the group  quickly agreed to rearrange the chords from Zombie, give them a feel like Rumble, and—once Rosy demonstrated improvising a melody using one student’s contribution—to incorporate all the remaining lyrics as spoken word.

The result, “Hope” is the soundtrack of the video above. While it’s only a rough recording of the final rehearsal with one group, we feel it captures the spirit of the week. Jackie and Norbert continue to work with them, and we’re available via their private space on this server, should they wish to join us. Given a goal of their own invention, we found them to be quite capable all by themselves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.