La Danza Poetica #60 Canada: Untold Stories

We love you, Canada. Not only is your Minister for Transport an astronaut, your storytellers, poets, musicians and artists are gravity-defyingly-eloquent.

La Danza Poetica #60 is an extended show, because I was enjoying myself so much, I could not stop. Moving from high-energy, activist hip hop and electronic dance music, into an extended ambient / spoken word mix with no interruption from me ... this month I bring you some stories, told in a time of reckoning, rooted in cultural expression, social consciousness, and Mother Earth connection.

Featuring a new album from spoken word poet Brandon Wint, recent albums from poets M.L. Holton and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, a remarkable collaboration between poet Shane Koyczan, Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq and folk artist Kym Gouchie, another great Rise Ashen remix featuring Eivør Pálsdóttir, Native hip hop from Jb the First Lady, Wellspoke, Mob Bounce and the Mag7 Standing Rock collective, orchestral electronics with deep roots, from Francois Couture, Ziibiwan, and Quantum Tangle.


Ziibiwan – Fast Asleep (I Will)
M.L.Holton – I care 4 U caribou (SPOKEN)
Brandon Wint – Brighter
Ziibiwan – Winter's Child feat. Wellspoke
Jb the First Lady – OOTG
Taboo / Mag 7 – Stand Up / Stand N Rock #NoDAPL
Eivør Pálsdóttir – Trollabundin (Rise Ashen Rub)
M.L.Holton – The Inuit in me Speaks to the White (MUSIC)
M.L.Holton – The Inuit in me Speaks to the White (SPOKEN)
Mob Bounce – Vision Quest
Wellspoke – facts
Ziibiwan – Manitou
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson – Caribou Ghosts and Untold Stories
Quantum Tangle – Ikersuaq
Shane Koyczan – Inconvenient Skin feat. Tanya Tagaq & Kym Gouchie
Brandon Wint – My Body is Heavy with Histories
Francois Couture – Iceberg
M.L.Holton – igloo (SPOKEN)
Ziibiwan – North
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson – Laughing Heart
Brandon Wint – Impossible and Common
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson – The Oldest Tree in the World

Notes on the show

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson's How to Steal A Canoe is a song/poem that "on the one hand tells the story of a young Nishnaabeg woman and an old Nishnaabeg man rescuing a canoe from a museum and returning it to the lake it was meant to be with, and on a deeper level, of stealing back the precious parts of us, that were always ours in the first place." It is also an extraordinary animated short film directed by Amanda Strong:

The multi-talented M.L. Holton is also a filmmaker. The short film of her WW1 story The Frozen Goose was made in 2016:

The first single from Brandon Wint's Infinite Mercies album is Love Survives, directed by Tendisai Cromwell. Capturing the beautiful spirit of this poet and his eternal seeking.

In 2017 Canada celebrated 150 years since confederation. A polarising time, as the dark histories of colonisation come into sharp focus. Inconvenient Skin is Shane Koyczan's meditation on this sharpening of focus, on this painful history that to the colonised, is not history, but very present. 

Introducing the video, Shane writes

My hope is that this piece will continue the conversation. One of the things I’ve learned through this process is something about healing. To heal a wound you must first clean it… which is perhaps the most painful part. To clean a wound you must expose it to the stinging air. That is where we are right now; witnesses to the blood and pain. We face it now to heal it, or ignore it… letting the infection deepen and spread. Whichever path we choose the truth will not waiver. The cure will take as long as the sickness, and the sickness isn’t yet over.

I speak in the show briefly about the shared dark history of Canada and Australia, two English colonies with reckonings to make. Not to derail the focus off Canada for too long, I'd like to draw the parallel in this time of reckoning. In Australia, we are currently working through a difficult debate about the celebration of "Australia Day" on January 26 - the date on which, in 1788, the commander of the First Fleet, Captain Arthur Phillip, rowed ashore at Sydney Cove, raised the Union Jack and proclaimed British sovereignty over part of the continent. A date that marks the beginning of the dispossession and oppression - and murder - of Aboriginal people. A date that is painful to Indigenous Australians, to whom it is "Survival Day". "Invasion Day". I cannot celebrate Australia Day on this date. Not while the inequalities, and injustices, are still so deep. Not while it is on a date that is painful for some. And even though the 26th of January is a recent date of celebration (only since the 1940s, nationally) the resistance by "mainstream Australia" to changing the date is fierce, and hard to understand. These reckonings must come. And they are not easy, but they are necessary. 

Poets like Shane help those of us born into the lineage of the coloniser understand, face our histories, expose, clean, and ultimately, hopefully, help to heal the wounds our ancestors cut. It begins with respect, with listening. That so many Australians can barely manage even that, is disheartening. But, things are changing. Slowly, but I believe things are changing. In Australia, poets and musicians lead the way as well. NITV and hip hop artists Nooky, Birdz (Nathan Bird), Urthboy (The Herd), Thundamentals (Tuka and Jeswon), L-Fresh the Lion, Tasman Keith, Ozi Batla, Kaylah Truth, Coda Conduct (Erica and Sally) and Hau (Koolism) made this video in 2017. Follow #ChangeTheDate or #AlwaysWillBe to learn more.

Just below the Canadian border, a protest unfolded across 2016 and 2017 that is significant for us all. And continues, in global work by Indigenous people fighting for the rights of Earth, and the people and animals who depend on her.

In 2017 the MTV Video Music Awards awarded all of the nominees in the 'Fight Against the System' category. This included Logic and Damian Lemar Hudson for Black SpiderMan, The Hamilton Mixtape for Immigrants (We Get the Job Done), Big Sean for Light, Alessia Cara for Scars To Your Beautiful, John Legend for Surefire and the Mag 7 collective, with Taboo and Shailene Woodley, for Stand Up / Stand N Rock #NoDAPL. The Mag 7 group became the first Native American hip hop group to win an MVA. The group features Canadian Indigenous hip hop artist Drezus. 

Stand Up is a powerful protest song in support of the Indigenous resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). I'm sure you remember the long protest in North Dakota, beginning in April 2016 and "ending" with the election of President Trump who signed an executive order for the pipeline to go ahead, and deployed federal troops to evict the final protesters. The DAPL pipeline may now be delivering oil, and endangering water supplies, but this movement has only just begun. Across the globe, water protectors and environment protectors continue to protest and push for divestment from banks that fund destructive projects like this. 

There is a film, Awake, now on Netflix, which follows, in three parts, the stages, tragedies and achievements, of this movement.

Main image: Jb the First Lady, photo by Melanie Orr