Palgrave Rotary Club, Thunder Air, Aeroplan donors (Hans Koehle, Maria Da Cunha, Cheryl Vhal, Victor Ford), The Royal Conservatory’s Learning Through The Arts Program, TD Bank Group, and the Paul Semple Scholarship Fund are supporting this project.
Wed. June 08th/2016 | Written by DAREarts Artist-Educator Glenn Marais | Day One
I arrived at 3:10pm after a long day of travel, relieved to be at a place that has been in my conscious and heart for a long time. I have read numerous stories and articles about Attawapiskat and admittedly it has always been a place that I have wanted to visit to work with the youth here and in some way, anyway try to help. Music is one of the greatest healing forces in the world and a universal art that unites and joins people across culture all around the world. The opportunity to come here and write a song that can be the voice of the young people here is truly a blessing.
A music producer named Doug Romanow has been working with the students teaching them digital recording and tonight was his final night with them. Doug produced a local band named, Midnight Shine, led by a local singer, Adrian Sutherland. I met them at the school and was so surprised to see Doug, as he and I had worked together on a song about ten years ago. It was such a thrill to see him and work with him on his project. He asked me to help track a song for the kids to sing over and we decided on Bruno Mar’s song, “The Way you are” I tracked the guitar and vocal and Doug created a drum, piano and synth track for the kids to sing over. We had a group of girls go fast, then a group of boys join them and finally about 6-8 soloists came up and recorded. It was great to hear the kids sing, initially with trepidation, but ultimately with confidence and a tremendous sense of pride. It was the perfect prelude to the beginning of our writing session and I have to thank Doug for his gracious introduction of our songwriting session and for sticking around and helping out with it. I explained that we would be creating a song of our own and recording it exactly as he had done with the difference being that we would be creating it. We began the session with a discussion on key factors that make up a verse and a chorus. The students present were quick to answer and shared thoughts on their life on Attawapiskat and their hopes and frustrations and the things that helped them feel connected and strong. It was a fantastic start and when we divided them into groups the energy continued as we worked past 10pm with several groups contributing great lyrics.
I am feeling very hopeful and optimistic for our song and based on the student’s ability to sing and compose lyrics, I feel that we could create something very powerful. After our session we walked some of the younger students home and I was struck by how light it was out and how beautiful the sky looked as if to herald the promise of the day in a Technicolor salute.
Thoughts on Attawapiskat
The reality of an isolated existence that bears the scars of a deeply troubled past, hovers over Attawapiskat like a cloud. Many people mistakenly judge First Nations people from a perspective of privilege and continue to reside in an ignorance created through the lack of education on the history of residential schools and the horrific effect it has had on First Nations People. This cultural genocide has created a black hole of identity and self-esteem that is going to require years of healing and a coordinated effort by our government and Canadian people to bring First Nations people back from the brink of a social crisis. If we are to grow into the great multi-cultural nation that we claim to be, then we must rectify the mistakes of our past. We stand on a frail foundation of antipathy and abject cruelty and to strengthen our resolve to create this noble ideal of a nation, then we must begin to work towards healing and strengthening our First Nations communities. Where do we begin? It begins with the people. Let’s talk with them, include them, empathize with them and take action with them. The crisis is not going away, it is getting worse and young people are taking their lives in a spiraling vortex of frustration and hopelessness that is out of control. As a proud Canadian, whenever I drink water from a tap, or observe the basic amenities and services of life, I need to remind myself that in over 80 communities in our country, a nation of people are denied these basic rights because of a xenophobic policy of abuse instituted by our government. Our responsibility as citizens is to stand up for our human rights for all and demand equitable treatment for all. It is the humane and democratic thing to do.
DAREarts Returns to Attawapiskat – Posts by Artist-Educator Glenn Marais
Read Day Two
Read Days Three & Four
Read Day Four Thoughts
DAREarts Returns to Attawapiskat – Posts by Artist-Educators Cathy Elliott & Shelley MacDonald
Read Days Five, Six & Seven
Read Day Eight
Watch “Walking for Peace” by the youth of Attawapiskat
DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower youth at-risk to become leaders. Our lead sponsors are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Group, and the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.