Celebrating many cultural worlds 

Aboriginal band brings traditional, modern fusion of music to the Celebration 2010 talent showcase

We hope our music inspires people to make good choices with looking after the land and their elders," Renae Morriseau
  • We hope our music inspires people to make good choices with looking after
    the land and their elders," Renae Morriseau

By Nicole Fitzgerald

What: Cultural Cabaret

When: Monday, March 12, 8 p.m.

Where: MY Millennium Place

Tickets: $10/$8

Many musicians have specific requests for recording studio time. Some demand a bowl of only green M&Ms, others bring groupies to chill, but for M’Girl, M&Ms are replaced with traditional tobacco offerings and groupies with a respected elder who joins the group in prayer before recording a song rooted in aboriginal history.

“Shirley James (of the Nlakatamux First Nations in Lytton) allowed us to record two of her songs,” said Renae Morriseau , vocalist and percussionist for M’Girl. “We went through the (traditional) protocols: we went into ceremony then recorded them, which again is a blending of two worlds.”

Traditional and modern come together, urban and rural, past and present, in the aboriginal foursome’s debut album Fusion of Two Worlds , which the Vancouver-based group will perform from at the Celebration 2010 Cultural Cabaret on Monday at MY Millennium Place.

The Cultural Cabaret showcases everything from aboriginal and jazz music to comedy and celebration of Paralympic athletes.

In addition to M’Girl, other performers to look forward to over the night of creative achievement include Alberta-based comedian Gord Paynter, musician and bike-touring philanthropist Jeremy Fisher, EMI recording jazz chanteuse Ali Milner, dance troupe Soul Funktion and Paralympic athletes.

M’Girl’s music is framed by urban living with contemporary synthesized beats fused with traditional, ceremonial and social songs from the band member’s Cree (Nehiyawak), Saulteaux (Anishnawbe), Mohawk and Metis heritage.

Rich vocal harmonies from Morriseau, Shelia Maracle, Tiare Laporte and Cheryl L’Hirondelle come together with Julie Blue on keyboards as well as spoken word, woodwinds and driving rhythms to create an urban world beat with aboriginal foundations.

What Enya did for new age music, what Loreena McKennitt did for Celtic, M’Girl does for aboriginal music, bridging listeners to a lesser known world where all too often as the song Astam Awasisak says “traditions and heroes (are) unsung.” M’Girl aims to create a different present with songs about everything from the scars of residential schools to aboriginals’ close kinship with nature. Despite weighty topics, M’Girl’s poetics and two-world music keeps their sound insightful rather than sermonizing.

“We hope our music inspires people to make good choices with looking after the land and their elders and to be mindful of the world they live in,” Morriseau said. “We don’t do the ‘he said, she said’ stuff. It’s more about historical perspectives and spiritual connectedness to the land.”

Listening to Eyes Wide Open at myspace.com/mgirlmusic is almost like hearing a prayer and Kitaskinanaw is an illustration of the musicians’ two worlds winding into one with drums calling in both sweet and raw vocals. Only two instruments, drum and voice, but the diverse layers build to orchestral proportions. Morriseau said the song is the Cree version of This Land is Your Land, This Land is Our Land.

“Our lands together is what it means,” she said of the song that weaves between English and Cree lyrics. “Our songs honour all the languages we come through.”

The Cultural Cabaret closes out the more than one-month-long Celebration 2010 festival headed by the Whistler Arts Council — the only 2010 festival celebrated annually since the 2010 Olympics were awarded in July 2003.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors. For tickets, call MY Place at 604-935-8410.

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