Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Jeremy Dutcher – Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa

Jeremy Dutcher – Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa (independent)

“When you bring the songs, you’re going to bring the dances back. You’ll bring the people back. You’ll bring everything back.”

That’s a tall order to hear from an elder in your community, a community where the past 400 years of colonialism have left fewer than 100 people speaking the Wolastoqiyik language of the Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick. Those remaining people are known as the “song carriers”—needless to say, they are all elderly.

Except one. His name is Jeremy Dutcher, a young, classically trained tenor singer and pianist who lives in Toronto and hangs around experimental circles. His debut album is not merely an academic project that involved him listening to his ancestors singing these songs, stored on 100-year-old wax cylinders at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec. If it was merely an interesting and culturally significant history project, that would be enough. But Dutcher’s voice and arrangements transform these songs into a stunning contemporary classical record—which was entirely the point. Even without the high concept, this would be a stunning work.

“In the period around the time these songs were collected there were a lot of what I call death narratives or the idea of Indigenous people as fading people,” Dutcher told theNoisey website. “I wanted to challenge that stereotype and say, ‘No, we’re here, we’ve been here. We’re still doing it’… and challenge that idea of death.” And by creating such stark and emotionally affecting music that has more in common with Diamanda Galas and Perfume Genius than A Tribe Called Red, he’s also challenging stereotypes of Indigenous music. “When you think about Indigenous music, a lot of people go straight to big drum songs,” he told The Whole Notemagazine. “So I think a big part of this project is also education: to blow up people’s ideas about what Indigenous music is, and what it’s going to be.”

Those ideas have evolved considerably in recent years, and Jeremy Dutcher’s dance with the dead is nothing short of transformative. That it’s his debut record makes it all the more remarkable. (April 6)

Further reading by Sarah MacDonald for The Walrus is here

Jeremy Dutcher is longlisted for the Polaris Music Prize. Expect him to also be on the shortlist; he also has a good shot at the prize itself. 

Stream: “Mehcinut,” “Essuwonike,” “Pomok naka Poktoinskwes”

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