Listen to Songs Like Home, a special 1-hour show about music that made a difference to new Canadians
Musician Lido Pimienta and CBC listeners share their stories, with songs by Nelly Furtado, the Rascalz, more
CBC's Rohit Joseph was just nine years old when he came to Canada from Dubai. It was a big culture shock, but he found kinship in a place he never really expected: the music of Nelly Furtado.
"It was around 2001 and I remember not really understanding what this whole Canada thing was about, but I was watching MuchMusic a lot and Nelly Furtado was on all the time!" Rohit says, laughing. "And Nelly Furtado was one of the first artists that I remember being distinctly Canadian and really vibing with. She had this global sound, mixing folk with hip hop, and she was from Victoria, which is where I first met some of my Canadian cousins, and she was raised by immigrant parents and I was an immigrant with immigrant parents. I just connected with her and her music. And breakbeat and banjo on 'Powerless (Say What You Want)'? How does that even work! But she does it."
This is the memory that sparked Songs Like Home, a one-hour radio show that aired nationally on July 1 at 12 p.m. local time across CBC Radio One and CBC Music. Listen to Songs Like Home right now on demand, share it via CBC.ca/Listen, or listen in the CBC Listen app.
Scroll down for a preview of what you'll hear in Songs Like Home, as well as some of the listener stories that didn't make it into the radio broadcast.
A life inspired by Murray McLauchlan's folk classic
"Nothing prepared me for the wide-open spaces [in Canada] and the big houses. In Hong Kong, you're living in such close quarters, we're cheek to jowl. My mother was used to it, she was raised at Cambie and King Edward [in Vancouver]. She didn't think it would be that traumatic for me. Just learning to walk to school from where we lived in North Vancouver at that time, maybe it was like half a kilometre, but it seemed interminably long.
"The first or second summer that my parents sent me to this YMCA day camp. It was a funky rod-and-gun club, really old furniture, and it had this old, wooden console radio and on the radio played this song by Murray McLauchlan. [Starts singing 'The Farmer's Song] 'Straw hats and old dirty hankies/ moppin' a face like a shoe/ thanks for the meal here's a song that is real/ from a kid from the city to you.' And that song — I'm realizing now that I reflect on it, it kind of shaped my life because I was like, 'How do I become a Canadian?' And this song —like, this is it."
Making friends through the Rascalz
Muhammed Abdel Ghadir:
"I'm a first-generation immigrant. I wasn't born here, my parents moved here when I was seven. We moved from the Middle East to St. Catharine's, Ontario, which is in the Niagara region. I would say that my relationship with Canada is complicated. I think most immigrants' relationship with Canada is complicated. Just trying to embrace the country that has accepted you while dealing with some of the social inequities that you can come across while also trying to learn about the country and its history, its relationship with our Indigenous nations.
"The first time I realized that an artist that I was listening to was Canadian, I think it was Kardinal Offishall and it was probably because he was yelling out 'Toronto!' in his tracks so that made it abundantly clear. I listened to a lot of hip hop and rap, like a lot of other kids or youth my age, especially those who were visible minorities. I think for me it was important that I found Canadian artists because I felt that it gave me something to connect with Canadian culture. I thought to myself, like, 'This is a way that I would be able to talk with my peers. I could listen to Kardinal Offishall or K'naan at the time and say, 'Hey, these guys are from our backyard,' and that definitely opened up some relationships for me
"I remember listening to Rascalz' 'On Top of the World' for the first time. And when you listen to that song there's different sounds from different places and they shout out different places from across the world and different cities. That's Canadian multiculturalism, right? Unless you're First Nations, we're all people that come from all over the place. Everyone's an immigrant here. And I think that's something that we can aspire to do, is to draw from our backgrounds, to benefit where we are today."
Kashtin's folk-rock welcome
"[I] came to Canada in 1984. The song that made me feel at home and touches me deeply to this day is: 'E uassiuian' by Kashtin, love it."
A student hears 'The Future' in Leonard Cohen
"I moved here to go to U.B.C. in 2003. The only thing I really knew about this wonderful land was Leonard Cohen, but it was enough to be drawn here. I believe it was during that first fall term, that I walked by a car parked in Kits Beach with a guy blasting 'The Future' at full volume. I knew I was home.
"By that point I understood and agreed with the quietness and calm demeanour inherent to so many of us. I thought it was perfect that the first act of real loudness that I witnessed was Cohen's song. I've even started singing his songs out loud, usually somewhere quiet and secluded, hoping no one sees me but that those (like myself that day) that need it, hear it."
"I love my home."
A love story that started in the cheap seats
"On arriving in Toronto from England on a cold January day in 1967, I moved into a rooming house close to Casa Loma. It was a great place to mix with a wide selection of young people, all sharing one large kitchen! On the evening of Friday, March 31, three of us walked to Massey Hall for the Gordon Lightfoot concert. We sat high up in the cheap seats where it was rather difficult to hear but the experience has stayed in my memory. After the concert we went to Pizza House and drank rather too much wine!
"Last June 6, my husband, a Canadian whom I met in the rooming house and one of those attending the concert, and I celebrated our golden wedding anniversary. I still have the Lightfoot LP from United Artists. Hard to choose which of his songs I liked best, probably 'Early Morning Rain.'"
A new home in the Dream Warriors' trailblazing hip hop
Michelle Eliot, host of BC Today:
"I moved here when I was 12 from the Philippines. And, you know, when you're 12 years old, you start exploring your own musical tastes. And it's not just about what your parents introduced you to. I really developed a love for hip hop. I was listening to a lot of, you know, American rappers, you know, Public Enemy at the time, Queen Latifah.
"But then I discovered a whole crop of Canadian rappers, most of them in Toronto at the time. People like Maestro Fresh Wes and Michie Mee. I was listening to all of them and just feeling great about the kind of hip hop that was coming from Canada. And then there was this really unique song that just caught my ear. I couldn't stop listening to it.
"It was called 'My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style' by a group called the Dream Warriors, who are now known as one of the iconic trailblazers when it comes to hip hop in Canada. But the sound of the song, it had that really great sample that was almost like a bossa nova. It's called 'Soul Bossa Nova,' in fact, jazz swing and then rapping on top of it. I remember sitting in front of my TV watching MuchMusic and having my VHS tape at the ready to hit record."
Finding a role model in Nelly Furtado
Lido Pimienta, Polaris Prize-winning artist:
"It was a horrible winter in London, Ontario, and I was just full of wonder, expectation and a false narrative that Canada is the best country in the world! [Laughs] Because when I was in Colombia, knowing that I was going to move here, anything that I would read up about the country was that, you know, everyone is really nice. You know, hate is not something that you associate with the country. I mean, now I look back at it and I was like, wow. I really was living in The Truman Show.
"As someone who is Indigenous to my territory in Colombia, it would have been great to know that colonization happened here, too. And it still is felt, and it still has these implications on people, real life people, not some museum picture... I was in Colombia, and a teenager, when I heard that song ['I'm Like a Bird']. And I was like, 'Oh, that's where Nelly Furtado is from. We're going there!' She's the best. I look up to her so much, I hope that we can make music together one day, like she's just such a special person, a creative force. And she's someone that I also look up to because she said, 'I'm not going to live in Hollywood. I'm not going to have paparazzi around me. I'm going to raise my kid, I'm going to go back to my city and I'm just going to live this quiet life. I'm not going to be on a major label, I'm going to have my own label and I'm going to be a patron for the arts.'
"People will talk about fame as the goal; for me, my goal is building. Like, my goal is building an art centre, art school, a food bank in Colombia and have my own artist-run centre or art gallery that I curate in the city and that I bring artists from all around Turtle Island. I feel like fame, rather than the goal, is the compromise. And that's how I see myself like Nelly
"I love her and I admired her for so many years. And then one day she's like eating arepas in my house and I mean, it's really bizarre. Surreal. And then, of course, like in Colombia, you know, I keep my connections there and help the community. I love Toronto, I love Canada, I love this. This is my Canada, this is my Turtle Island."