Indigenous Saskatoon flute makes appearance at NBA All-Star game

Native American flutist, Tony Duncan, will be playing alongside Nelly Furtado using a flute crafted in Saskatoon.

Native American flutist playing alongside Nelly Furtado using a flute crafted in Saskatoon

Tony Duncan, pictured with Nelly Furtado, holds the flute crafted by Saskatoon's Richard Dubé. (Tony Duncan/Facebook)

A little bit of Saskatoon will be making an appearance during today's NBA All-Star game.

Indigenous North American flutist, Tony Duncan, will be playing alongside Nelly Furtado during a performance of Canada's national anthem. During the duo's rendition of O Canada, a hometown flute, made by Saskatoon's Richard Dubé, will be played by Duncan.

In 2014, Dubé met Duncan during the World Flute Society convention; he gifted Duncan a flute.

"He really liked the flute," said Dubé. "He like the sound, he liked how well it was tuned, and how easy it was to play."

About a week ago, Dubé received a call from Duncan asking for a special order.

"He told me he had this gig playing O Canada with Nelly Furtado at the NBA All-Star game on [Sunday]," explained Dubé. "So I said, 'well, I don't have one in the right key for you but you know, I'll give it a shot and make one for you.'"

Dubé handcrafted the personalized instrument over the course of 24 hours.

"At first, I didn't think I could really do anything for him, but then I took on the challenge and yeah, it's kind of cool," he said.

Dubé got his start making flutes in the early 2000's as an inner city school teacher at Pleasant Hill Community School. As a teaching tool, he had his students learn to make and play an indigenous version of the instrument.

"I saw that it had a really strong impact with my kids," said Dubé. "A lot of kids had a really tough shell around themselves, and the flute was something that the kids would let kind of penetrate that shell, and it would help them to connect with the best part of themselves."

"Over 96 per cent of the kids at Pleasant Hill were aboriginal, so it made a lot of sense to me to make a flute from this continent that would have a closer connection to my First Nations kids."   

Dubé said the process of making the instrument took a lot of trial and error to perfect, as well as a lot of tips and advice from professional flute makers. But after about 15 years of crafting, it's really paying off.

"It's really nice to know that an instrument that I really made for kids first is something that a professional musician likes so much that he wants to use on a live performance for a big stage."


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