Retellings, relatings, reflections

SingingForLife in Attawapiskat a big success

We made some new friends and they wrote a song called Hope. Here’s an article that appeared in the Anishinabek News. Here’s the video featuring the kids’ song. Or read the previous post.

 

Singing For Hope in Attawapiskat

Singing For Love has returned from Attawapiskat!

Photo: collage of activities from arrival until finish
Some of the week’s activities

Hope was the topic the youth chose to write about. Their song reveals their depth of thought and experience with hope, sometimes realized and sometimes lost—and the power to go forward in either case.

Immersed in a remote community facing many challenges, the kids we met are talented and determined to face the future. Music already plays a big role in their lives. They learn piano and guitar at school,  take part in traditional ceremonies in and out of school and  use a wide variety of tools and resources to accomplish it. We saw kids practising with YouTube tutorials and cellphone apps.

Countdown to Attawpiskat

Photo of Jackie Hookimaw-Witt with children of Attawapiskat taking part in performance art inspired by indigenous ways of learning.
Jackie Hookimaw-Witt
with children of Attawapiskat

It’s now less than a week before we fly, but the project has already taken off in ways we’d only dreamed of. Our small impromptu fundraiser at Ixiim Toronto last weekend raised money, awareness, and yielded new friends and supporters. On Thursday the GoFundMe campaign was trending. On Wednesday we were contacted by Anishinabek News, who scheduled an interview to take place at the end of the week. Friday, with the immeasurable help of Jordi Small at Long & McQuade Music—who crunched the numbers and bent some rules—we saw a pallet of guitars, a bass, two small amps, and 10 ukuleles donated by our friends Certifiably Strung, shipped off to Timmins, where De Beers Canada will pick them up and fly them to our destination free of charge. To say we’re grateful is an understatement! Our fundraising campaign remains open until we reach our goal, which is still needed to cover the cost of the brand new instruments that will stay in Attawapiskat to enrich the lives of the youth group we’ll visit.

Singing For Life in Attawapiskat

Attawapiskat First Nation is located at the mouth of the Attawapiskat River on James Bay in Northern Ontario and is home to about 2,000 people. In the fall of 2015 suicide became epidemic. Suicide and self-inflicted injuries are among the leading causes of death among First Nations, Métis and Inuit people. Waves of suicides like the one in Attawapiskat are not new. Unemployment, lack of access to education and substandard infrastructure are factors contributing to the depression that besets indigenous communities.

Anger’s Not Pretty

Warning: content is graphic.Rosy’s full statement (closed captions).

When Rosy was approached by songwriter/videomaker Timmy Danbrook to become involved in creating a video for his song Anger’s Not Pretty, she wasn’t sure what to expect. The ideas being floated included Spanish lyrics, completely new lyrics, a rearrangement, some orchestration… an open palette. In the end one line, “…but it’s mine” set the direction.

A musical intervention

For me, the first step in creating a unit of practice is to brainstorm, and no tool suits that process better than a mind map. For this project I’m using XMind.

Mind Map of the 6-day plan with requirements, schedule and outcomes.
Initial Plan shown as a mind map, displaying requirements, 6-day schedule and outcomes.
You may have noticed Attawapiskat is miles north of S4L’s home base in Toronto. After these details are sketched in I’ll proceed to put as much of the content as possible on line here, using LearnPress. Each participant in the course can be given a login for early and ongoing access, and we’ll be able to see who takes advantage of that. Of course this relies on there being access to computers and internet, which was sometimes problematic even in Toronto. But the organizational benefits are still well worth it to me because I’ve got it running as a WordPress site in an “AMP stack” on my laptop. I’m guaranteed to be able to run it in the classroom with the students.

Can Singing For Love contribute meaningfully to ending the Attawapiskat suicide crisis?

Map of northern Ontario showing Attawapiskat, on the shores of James Bay, 1,054 km northwest of Toronto, and 221 km NW of Moosonee.

Attawapiskat First Nation is a northern indigenous community beset by poverty, lack of support and resources, and a suicide crisis that still hasn’t been adequately addressed. Singing For Love has joined forces with documentarian Jackie Hookimaw and others from the community to raise funding for a musical intervention.

[…]
I don’t know if you can hear me
but sometimes I feel so small
I can still hear your laugh perfectly
tell me how did you stay so strong…

Proud of Being Canadian

YouTube playlist: two summers of Singing For Love

2017 was a very productive summer at Singing For Love. Although camp and other activities affected attendance, as expected this time of year, the small group of talented kids achieved a great deal. They learned he chords C, CMaj7, Am, Am7, F, Dm, Dm7, D7, G, G7, Em, Em(11), and E7. They learned a Blues in A, using a a sliding “double-stop” (a two-note shape that creates an “interval,” in this case a tritone), and heard that it will eventually allow them to quickly and easily play a Blues in any key. They learned why do re mi isn’t just child’s play, and one of the girls, C.R., then used solfege in order to compose the melody of the song we wrote. They shared the reasons they think people want to write songs, and explored several ways to approach songwriting. Together they chose a theme to write about—Canada’s 150th anniversary—brainstormed “power ideas” that form the main concepts they wanted to communicate about their chosen theme.

2017 — the kids will sing about what makes them happy

Photo of Rosy and child at the whiteboard
Rosy deconstructs songwriting, while the kids work on constructing their song.
Singing For Love is off to a great start this year. The eager group of kids have all had some previous exposure to the ukulele and/or other instruments, and we’ve been moving at roughly twice the pace of last year.

Most referrals this year came through Nellie’s Shelter, meaning their participation isn’t necessarily related to parental involvement in a PARS program. While we’ve talked about the history of music in helping individuals to overcome sadness, physical oppression and the effects of violence, it’s not with the same personal attachment and focus as last year. As always, we are focusing on dignity, respect for self and others, and personal expression.

Singing for Love 2017 kicks off Tuesday, June 13

Our first session begins 5:30 pm, Tuesday, June 13, at Counterpoint, Suite 605, 920 Yonge St, with 10 participants. There’s still time to get in on the fun! Use the form on the Contact page to get our attention.

photo of ukulele with all parts labelled and additional chart showing string names and numbers
Parts of the Ukulele
Closeup photo of a ukulele bridge with circled numbers 1—4.
The strings are numbered from the ground up. The numbers are circled so they look different from finger numbers.
Photo of the left hand, palm out, fingers apart. T is for thumb. The other fingers are numbered from the index (1) to the pinky (4).
Fingers numbered 1—4; T for thumb