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Newfoundland artists respond to cod ban

The Story

Cod was so elemental to the people of Newfoundland that the bottom-dwelling fish has been elevated in song, literature, art, plays and poetry. From spawning common proverbs -- like "As cold as a cod's nose" and "No cod, no cash" -- to the honouring of cod on currency and buildings, the fish has left an indelible mark on the province's arts and culture. This CBC Radio clip surveys the reactions to the cod fishing ban from Newfoundland's fertile music scene, which range from country laments to a Great Big Sea song.

Medium: Radio
Program: Morningside
Production Date: March 2, 1995
Guests: Anita Best, Peter Narvaez
Host: Peter Gzowski
Duration: 12:49
"Kitchen Party" from Outport: Reflections from the Newfoundland Coast, by Candace Cochrane published in 1981.

Did You know?

• The effects of the 1992 cod ban were wide ranging, with plays, novels and even films being made about the 400-year-old fishery tradition.

• According to folklorist Peter Narvaez, by 1995 there had been at least 27 songs recorded that directly referenced the moratorium and its effect on Newfoundlanders.

• These songs typically adopted a harder, more political stance, such as Fisherman's Lament, by Great Big Sea, which talks of "brave Newfoundlanders" having their life taken away by "some government bastards."

• Musician Anita Best calls these songs "a direct, angry shout" at the loss of the once profitable cod fishing economy.

• Other songs reflecting the impact of the ban include She's Gone Boy, She's Gone , Moratorium Blues and The Good Days Are Gone.

• Other popular songs addressing the supremacy of the cod include I's the b'y, whose lyrics state:
"Sods and rinds to cover your flake,
Cake and tea for supper,
Codfish in the spring of the year,
Fried in maggoty butter."

• The cultural reach of cod goes well beyond song to include poetry, film and even the language itself.

• U.S. poet William Carlos Williams penned The Cod Head, a book of his poetry in 1932.

• The first show by Newfoundland comedy troupe Codco was called Cod on a Stick and was billed as being about "The selling off of Newfoundland culture as if it were the latest fashion in fast food."

• The 1982 Dictionary of Newfoundland English lists 32 different usages of the word "cod" including "kissing the cod," "kicking the cod," "No cod, no cash" and "As cold as a cod's nose."

• To hear some traditional recipes for cod listen to the clip "The proper way to cook a cod."


Fished Out: The Rise and Fall of the Cod Fishery more