Members of the Train Gang (Christopher Friesen)
Artists Jen Delos Reyes and Kerri-Lynn Reeves are following in the footsteps of Alan Lomax, the legendary American folk music collector from the early part of the 20th Century.
Alan Lomax's endeavors became the landmark Smithsonian Folkways Collection. But Jen and Kerri-Lynn are putting a Manitoba slant on their project.
They spent two years travelling around the province, recording and documenting the folk music of Manitoba and the results, a three-volume set of recordings, will be launched Friday, October 28 at the Lo Pub in Winnipeg. They'll also launch the Manitoba Folkways Collection website.
SCENE wanted you to know what their experience was like.
1. For those who don't know the background, who was Alan Lomax and what did he mean to you?
Alan Lomax, was known as the "Song Hunter." He was a folklorist, ethnomusicologist, but most importantly a gregarious media personality. Before the age of 16, Alan Lomax began his foray into music and folklore by driving across America with his father, folklorist, John Lomax in the 1930s collecting people's songs as they traversed the landscape. Their approach changed their field and ultimately the entire world.
The impact Lomax had on culture was profound. He popularized contemporary folk music through his connection to radio and media, and created a shift in the way people looked at and valued the production of culture - he made it clear through folk music that what was produced by people in their daily lives could be of significant cultural value, changing how America valued its own music, and its people.
2. In the 1930s, Alan Lomax drove around America in a car-cum-recording machine to gather his material. Describe YOUR process. How did you get the word out and select the musicians?
Over the course of two summers, we reached out across the province in a variety of ways including driving to small towns, connecting with local people and cultural centers, and of course, scouring the world wide web to help us reach the areas of the province we were not able to visit. What emerged through these recordings were songs with a clear emphasis on place and prairie experience.
3. As artists why did you want to undertake such an enormous project?
It was Lomax's hope through his work that American people would get to know themselves better from the records he released, and learn to sing their own folk songs. We took on this enormous project in this same spirit. It is our hope that through knowing the music of the people of this country today we can get to know it and each other better. We hope that in the coming years we will be able to add more volumes to this collection to represent every province and territory in Canada.
4. Any disasters along the way?
No disasters at all, not even any car trouble or bad food! We went into this project very opened minded and are quite happy with the outcomes.
5. How do you define "folk music?"
As Lomax said, if you are singing a song about your own life you are doing what they are doing, you are making folk music. Folk music is quite simply not a genre, but an approach. It is music about the lives and places that people occupy.
6. What is the range of music and musicians represented on the recordings?
The musical styles range from influences of rock, surf, hip hop, country, singer songwriter and more. The musicians range from being farmers to living and working in downtown Winnipeg and they range in age from 10 to 70! What remains consistent throughout is that all of the songs are about the lives and experiences of Manitobans.
7. What was your most amazing experience during the process?
KLR: Going into each intense day of recording in a new place and in a new space was incredibly exciting! Each of the locations had a particular vibe but all were filled with excitment and a feeling that something of great value was happening - the connections being made, the talent being shared, the experience and voices being captured, and the collective voice that was emerging. In particular one voice that rang true to me, was Rob Waddell. While watching him record "Memory of a Lake", I felt very familiar with what he was singing about - growing up in small town Manitoba, and it definitely warmed my heart.
Jen Delos Reyes and Kerri-Lynn Reeves produced The Manitoba Folkways Collection