‘The music of this land,’ reclaimed
Polaris-Prize-winning Jeremy Dutcher achieves emotional artistry through indigenous recording
CAROL BANKS WEBER
Jeremy Dutcher won the April 2018 Polaris Prize for his incredible roots-fusion debut, “Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, or Our Maliseets Songs.” The album celebrates his tribal ancestry in amazing ways.
What does it mean to be Canadian Indigenous? For Jeremy Dutcher, 28, it’s unearthing long-buried treasure that comes alive from the inside. It’s the music of his people — diversified, amplified, alive.
Dutcher is a part of the Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick, leading an indigenous revival. He also happens to be a thrilling, classically trained opera tenor, opening himself up to the forces of his ancestors hundreds and hundreds of years left behind.
His April 2018 Polaris-Prize-winning debut album Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, or Our Maliseets Songs is both historically informative and emotionally earth-shattering. Applying his vocal training, breath, mercurial dynamics, ghostly figures, and an innate understanding of his roots, Dutcher’s new world music takes off from the hundreds of chants once recorded on wax cylinders in the early 1900s by American anthropologist William H. Mechling.
For his own fully realized recording, Dutcher incorporated his love of opera, some jazz, some EDM, all within the framework of the soothing, vibrant chants — developing a forward, contextual groove.
I get to sing [in Wolastoqey] with my ancestors, with these waxed recordings, but also, it’s about looking forward, and moving forward, he told the National Music Centre in a 2017 artist-in-residence video about the new recording.
The kinds of music that I do and have loved throughout my life are jazz, opera, traditional chant music, and these are genres that aren’t often speaking to each other. I sort of see it as my role to turn them on each other and to have this conversation between genres that don’t really — on the surface — fit together.
On “Lintuwakon’ciw Mehcinut,” a breathtaking step forward for Canadian Indigenous music, Dutcher stitches together these distinctive genres seamlessly, as if they always belonged, rustling about and stirred by his Lazarus touch. He listens to the voices of the past — threaded and coursing through his very soul — sinking into a piano concerto, and his own lyrical comfort and joy, pouring forth in waves. Those precious voices, old and new, conversational and profound, mingle, separate, and fade — in one easy, flowing piece.
Jeremy Dutcher shares the music of his people from his creative wellspring at the ECA Theater on Oct. 26 7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Pre-show talk: 6:15 p.m.-6:40 p.m.