Polaris Prize (Canada’s Mercury Award) winner Jeremy Dutcher is a classically trained operatic tenor and composer who takes every opportunity to blend his Wolastoq First Nation roots into the music he creates, blending distinct musical aesthetics that shape-shift between classical, traditional, and pop to form something entirely new.
Dutcher’s debut album, ‘Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa’, is set for UK release on April 19th, 2019. It involves the rearrangement of early 1900s wax cylinder field recordings from his community. “Many of the songs were lost because our musical tradition was suppressed by the Canadian government. I’m doing this work as there’s only about a hundred Wolastoqey speakers left. It’s crucial that we’re using our language because, if you lose the language, you’re losing an entire distinct way of experiencing the world.”
Performer, composer, activist, musicologist — these roles are all infused into his art and way of life. His music, too, transcends boundaries: unapologetically playful in its incorporation of classical influences, full of reverence for the traditional songs of his home and teeming with the urgency of modern-day struggles of resistance.
A member of Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick, Jeremy first did music studies in Halifax before taking a chance to work in the archives at the Canadian Museum of History, painstakingly transcribing Wolastoq songs from 1907 wax cylinders. “Many of the songs I’d never heard before, because our musical tradition on the East Coast was suppressed by the Canadian Government’s Indian Act.” Jeremy heard ancestral voices singing forgotten songs and stories that had been taken from the Wolastoqiyik generations ago.
As he listened to each recording, he felt his own musical impulses stirring from deep within. Long days at the archives turned into long nights at the piano, feeling out melodies and phrases, deep in dialogue with the voices of his ancestors. These “collaborative” compositions, collected together on his debut LP ‘Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa’, are like nothing you’ve ever heard. Delicate, sublime vocal melodies ring out atop piano lines that cascade through a vibrant range of emotions. The anguish and joy of the past erupt fervently into the present through Jeremy’s bold approach to composition and raw, affective performances enhanced by his outstanding tenor techniques.
“I’m doing this work because there’s only about a hundred Wolastoqey speakers left,” he says. “It’s crucial for us to make sure that we’re using our language and passing it on to the next generation. If you lose the language, you’re not just losing words; you’re losing an entire way of seeing and experiencing the world from a distinctly indigenous perspective.”
Jeremy Dutcher will play his debut European live dates this Spring – details to follow soon.
‘Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa’ track list:
1. Mehcinut (Death Chant)
2. Essuwonike (Trading Song)
3. Eqpahak (Savage Island)
4. Ultestakon (Shaker Lullaby)
5. ‘kotuwossomikhal (Thirsty)
6. Sakomawit (Chief’s Installation)
7. Oqiton (Canoe Song)
8. Nipuwoltimok (Wedding Dance)
9. Pomok naka Poktoinskwes (Fisher and the Waterspirit)
10. Welcome Chant (Qonute)
11. Koselintuwakon (Love Song)
CBC video piece on Jeremy Dutcher