La Danza Poetica #6 Canada, Northern Soul

The sixth dance for Radio Groovalizacion covers a bit of ground in the great northern american landmass we know as Canada. Français Canadien, Québécois, Acadien, English, Inuit, Huron, Algonquin, Métis, Cree ... the French and English heritage, the African heritage, the Inuit and the First Nations heritage - this is the rich turmoil of Canadian cultures.


Neki,François Couture, Andrée Levesque Sioui, Akienda Lainé & Francois Dorion - Yahndawa
(Iqallijuq -  Inuit throat singing - Niaqunaq Et Qiuarpaaq & Quananau)
Tanya Evanson - Birth Cry
Sophie Jeukens - Femmes Diamants
Alexis O'Hara - Stockholm Effect
Queen Ka - Racine
Ian Kamau - Renaissance
Ian Kamau w/ Moya Teklu & Mereb Hagos - Now That I'm Alone
Samian - La plume d'aigle
MC June feat. Fabrice Koffy - La poésie ma chair (feat. Fabrice Koffy)
Ivy Slam - Va faire ta guerre
1-Speed Bike - Hosni Mubarak Does a Back Flip Over the Gaza Wall Without the CIA Safety Net
Fortner Anderson - Fortner Anderson
Ariane Moffatt remixed by Poirier - Too Late
Vocaux Inuit,Inuit throat singing - Umpi
Taqralik Partridge - No Sleep For The Wicked
Michèle Lalonde - Speak White (1970)
A Tribe Called Red feat. Northern Cree and Clarence Two Toes - PowWowzers
Impossible Nothing Northern Cree remix - Thanksgiving
Mary Sivuarpik / François Couture - Grandmother's song

Notes on the show

Opening the show with Yahndawa, a beautiful composition by writer, broadcaster and musician François Couture, inspired by the songs of the Wendat / Huron people of Quebec, merging voice with the string orchestra of the west. Couture's compositions also close the show - from his album Qallunakthe voice of Mary Sivuarpik, a song inspired by Inuit throat singing (in fact the whole album is inspired by throat singing, and is worth a listen).

Mixed in through the show, Iqallijug, and other Inuit voices taken from Vocaux Inuit an album released by UNESCO a number of years ago (now out of print I think). Reading about throat singing and Inuit language and culture this week preparing for the show, I learned that throat singing was banned by Christian priests for almost a century, through a pretty common and basic lack of understanding - as these are not necessarily religious songs, not in fact songs at all, more vocal games. Most often practiced by two women facing off against each other, in a kind of breathing poetic slam. In one form they continue, competing with each other and their own stamina, until one laughs and breaks off.

Modern Canadian poets practice many forms of breathing vocal game. Circular breath and circular hum, the voice as drum and harp and string, seems to infuse the spoken word, hip hop and music out of this country. I love Canadian spoken word artists most of all because of their beautiful lyricality, and vocal dexterity. They are some of the best at fusing word and music and they are orchestral, too.

Some damn fine powerful women in this set. Sophie Jeukens (Quebec), Tanya Evanson (Antiga/Quebec), Alexis O'Hara (Montreal), Queen Ka (also Montreal). And Taqralik Partridge, who I've been a big fan of since Ian Ferrier (of Pharmakon and Wired on Words fame) selected a track of hers for the Going Down Swinging special international spoken word collection, in #30 - way back in 2010. That track features here. Taqralik, originally from Arctic Quebec, is a spoken word artist, writer, and throat singer of Inuit and Scottish heritage. Weaving stories with rhyme, lullaby, and throat singing. Breathing poetry. She has also collaborated with the Montreal Symphony - continuing this notion I have that the mood of Canada is polyrhythmic and orchestral.

It is orchestral. Big, sweeping and often with a dreamlike quality. Is it the influence of this big dreaming landscape? I've never been, never seen, but from all evidence, I think so. Take Ghislain Poirier's remix of pop artist Ariane Moffat as an example - in fact, all Poirier's work. And, also 1-Speed Bike (Aidan Girt of Godspeed You! Black Emperor) - whose life is orchestral (or at least sounds so) involving snowy cabins in the woods, long treks in and out of western culture, and whose 2010 album Pashto Translater Needed is a veritable symphony of the angry electric.

Our 'honoured ghost' in La Danza Poetica #6 is Michéle Lalonde's poem Speak White, recorded in 1970. "Speak white" is a racist insult used by English speaking Canadians against those who speak other languages in public. Something we are also sadly familiar with here in Australia - I guess in all countries with a dominant language, but in Canada the friction between so-called francophiles and anglophiles has a long history. Lalonde's poem is a complaint against linguistic oppression. In this, she is the recorded still living soul of La Danza Poetica - and, I think, of Groovalizacion! Here is the video of her performance:

Hip hop in Canada is as rich and varied as the more poetry side of spoken word. Ian Kamau straddles that line. Raised in Toronto by Trinidadian parents, Kamau has a distinctive hip hop style - a distinctively storytelling style, with just the right amount of funk infusion. Tracks taken from his 2011 album One Day Soon. Watch this video of the track Yesterdays also off that album - with sign language performance by Muna Jimale and Ian:

Samian, hip hop artist of the Algonquin nation, brings the hip hop. Samian raps in Me'tis as well as Québécois. Also on the poetry / hip hop verge, MC June collaborating with Montreal-based, Ivory Coast-raised poet Fabrice Koffy, track taken from Fabrice's smooth 2011 album poésic. And of course, Ivy Slam, champion of poetry slam and the Québécois language, brilliant mixer of the word and music - Va faire ta guerre (go make your war) - (more about that here).

Closing the show, the first voices of Canada - namely, a group of singers called Northern Cree. The group originates from the Saddle Lake Cree Nation but is made up of members from the Treaty 6 area, most notably the Frog Lake Cree Nation, Onion Lake Cree Nation, Samson Cree Nation, Louis Bull Cree Nation, and the Poundmaker Cree Nation. Founder Steve Wood's motto which this highly acclaimed group always follow: “If you believe in yourself, who you are, where you come from, your culture and more importantly your language, it will take you to places you have never even dreamed of.” Truth.

First the great track PowWowzers from Ottawa's First Nations DJ crew A Tribe Called Red. Then, Impossible Nothing aka Darwin Frost's remix of Northern Cree's Thanksgiving. We close with Inuit singer Mary Sivuarpik, again from François Couture.