A new album came out this week and hit an unexpected number nine on the charts. N’we Jinan Eeyou Istchee is the first release to come out of an innovative tour through 10 Cree communities in Quebec, and yesterday, it appeared in ninth place on the top albums chart on iTunes Canada (and even made it to number one in the Hip Hop/Rap category).
Commissioned by the province’s Cree Nation Youth Council, the N'we Jinan Eeyou Istchee Tour is a collaborative project aimed at creating a space where youth can express themselves musically in a safe, supportive environment. Grand Chief Joshua Iserhoff and Montreal hip hop artist and music educator David Hodge travelled with a mobile studio to teach Cree youth about recording, music production, songwriting, performance, marketing and design.
The tour's goals are to empower Cree youth, as well as provide schools and communities with resources for a music program and to encourage school attendance. During the tour's three-day residency in each community, two to three original songs were created. The result: a charting album of 19 tracks.
One of the tracks is sung by 13-year-old Angel Baribeau, from Mistissini, Quebec. "I believed that I had a nice voice, but I never really believed it was that great,” Angel said in one of the many videos documenting the tour. "I heard myself and I was like wow that’s actually me?"
Angel credits singing with helping her come out of her shell, but for Jason Swallow, also of Mistissini, it had a different impact. "Music is the only way to escape my problems, you know. Before I started music I had drinking problems, drug problems. So ya, basically music saved my life."
The N’we Jinan Eeyou Istchee Tour will be travelling to other Cree communities across Canada. For more on the project, see this CBC News article about the tour's stop in Whapmagoostui.