Culture is often a source of identity. Urban or ancestral, sometimes every culture seems to be at war with the world around it. But youth conquers all, bridges gaps, reconciles opposites.
Marie Semeur | File Native
Wapikoni Mobile is best known for it promotion of audio-visual artists in native communities. But its little sister, Musique Nomade, is far less well known. It’s a musical platform based on exactly the same principle. A team of professionals aboard a mobile recording studio travel across Canada. Their mission: to spot musical talent in isolated native communities. They look for talent that might otherwise never see the light of day, so they can publicize unknown gifts, buried treasure.
Karine Gravel is the project’s coordinator. “We want to support the next generation of native talent,” she explains. “We offer ways for them to perfect their talent free of charge. You almost never hear First Nations music on mainstream radio. To encourage their music, we’ve built this bridge between youth and the music industry.” Young people usually don’t have the financial means to produce their own music.
Gravel says the Innu and Atikamekw communities contain the largest number of artists wishing to preserve their traditional language and their cultural roots through music. In Quebec, she says she finds some artists who share these values. It’s possible to stay true to your native culture while carving out a place in the music business. Success stories include Samian, Elisapie Isaac, and Florent Vollant.
First Nations mix painting, music, singing and traditional dance to express their art. In Hip-Hop culture, many artists use all 4 media in sync, asserting their identity, seeking serenity.
Encouraged by the TV show Le Rythme des nations (season 2), Malcolm, a young Pesami rapper, has been writing music since he was 17. Equally comfortable in French and in his mother tongue of Innu, rap is his chosen way of expressing himself. “As a teenager I went through a very dark period,” he explains. “Writing freed me, and gave me inner peace.”
“My friends, my cousins and I got in the habit of listening to a lot of rap music,” he says. “Thanks to the recognition native artists are getting, we feel a lot closer to the music world.”
Music gave Malcolm a solid way to get his projects off the ground and gain visibility. Inspiration, perspiration, passion all drove him. Working with Musique Nomade, he recorded an album, and also performed at the 2015 festival Présence autochtone (Native Presence Festival).
Malcolm is grateful the program exists. The work of Karine and her team are a real gift for young artists like him. “Their coming to visit us is a wonderful thing,” Malcolm says. “It’s allowed us to become better known. It’s brought our community to life.”