Making music video with teens in Indigenous communities helps plant 'seed of confidence'

Eight teens in the community of around 2,600 people took part in a workshop run by N'We Jinan, a non-profit organization that helps youth across North America make music videos with a mobile recording studio.

N'we Jinan program travelled to more than 30 communities, helping hundreds of youths

Matthew Monias, 16, was one of eight teens in Garden Hill First Nation who helped make a music video and song earlier this month. (Samuel Rancourt/Radio-Canada)

Matthew Monias says he was around eight years old when depression started to really hit him. That's when he stopped singing.

Before then, he had been singing since he was four years old, said the teen, who lives in Garden Hill First Nation, about 475 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

"Depression is the most hardest thing here," he said. "A lot of kids who deal with depression and who deal with a whole bunch of anxiety attacks … it gets to them."

For a while, Monias, who is blind, said his disability bothered him.

"I had nothing to help me get through that [depression]," he said. "I'd get angry at every little thing back then. I'd get upset because of my disability."

Then, when he was 13, he started playing keyboard. Now 16, Monias said music has become part of his everyday life.

"Music is something that helps me get through my stress, and gets me through the day," he said.

"For every mood I have, I always have a musical ballad in my head playing."

'Help you see'

Monias is one of eight teens in the community of around 2,600 people who took part in a workshop run by N'We Jinan, a non-profit organization that helps youth across North America make music videos with a mobile recording studio.

David Hodges, a Montreal-based music educator, helps run the program. So far he said,  N'We Jinan has travelled to more than 30 Indigenous communities in Canada, helping hundreds of youths to work on songs and their music talents.

"Essentially, the most important thing is that we're giving young people an environment where they can be safe and where they feel they can express themselves," Hodges said.

Hodges said most young people love music because it "speaks their language."

Ideas for songs come from the youths themselves and the conversations Hodges has with them about their hopes, dreams and struggles.

"Being able to create their own original song definitely gives them a sense of interest and … a seed of confidence in themselves."

Deborah Tegg-Daniels teaches English at the school in Garden Hill First Nation. (Samuel Rancourt/Radio-Canada)

In Garden Hill, N'we Jinan collaborated to record and film an original song, Help You See, with teens while the group was in the community from Feb. 6 to Feb. 11.

Deborah Tegg-Daniels, an English teacher at the school in Garden Hill, said it's clear to her how much music means to her students.

"We just had an exam and one of the topics that they got to choose from was music, that was one of the topics I gave them. Most of them chose music," she said.

"Music is key, and it's crucial," she added. "It's crucial for them to just make it through another day."

Even though he's a musician, Monias said N'we Jinan pushed him outside his comfort zone.

"There should be more ... programs around here like N'we Jinan to support kids especially here because even with talent they're afraid to step up" he said.

"I think that there should be more programs — and not only programs but someone to talk to."

Monias said he and his peers had a pair of messages they wanted to convey through their video: "We wanna say, 'Hey, we go through a lot, we wanna put this message in and it's not gonna be all depressing."

And the other message is: "Despite your confidence, despite your fears, despite the depression, look over your peers and to know that you're not alone."

With files from Radio-Canada's Samuel Rancourt