Teenage 4-time fiddle champ honouring great-grandfathers through traditional Métis music
Jordan Daniels, 16, is being taught by the 'Master of the Métis Fiddle,' John Arcand
A young protégé is keeping his family's musical tradition alive while earning himself a reputation as one of Saskatchewan's best young fiddle players.
Jordan Daniels, 16, originally from the Mistawasis First Nation north of Saskatoon, began playing the fiddle at 10 years old. He now holds four Junior Championship titles from the annual John Arcand Fiddle Fest, the largest fiddle competition in Saskatchewan.
"My inspiration comes from my Mushums ('grandfather' in Cree), Lawrence Daniels and Wilfred Badger. They both grew up playing the fiddle and I grew up hearing stories about them," said Daniels.
The art of fiddle playing has been passed down through several generations of the Daniels family, with both his great-grandfathers becoming well-known in the Mistawasis area for their skilled fiddle playing. Their tales of travelling and entertaining left an impression on him to keep the family tradition alive.
"Ever since I heard those stories, I wanted to play, too," said Daniels.
He wanted to honour his great-grandfathers, so he asked his grandmother for a fiddle for Christmas.
"I haven't stopped since then," said Daniels.
His first gig was at an elder's meal in Mistawasis. Many people who heard him play advised him to stick with it.
Learning from the master
By the following spring, Daniels was a registered student of renowned Saskatchewan fiddle player John Arcand, also known as the "Master of the Métis Fiddle."
Daniels remembers being nervous about his first trip to meet Arcand.
"I didn't know what to expect, but John was a great guy," said Daniels. "He is just very knowledgeable about what he does."
"First thing I did was teach him to make music, which he is really good at doing now, but he is really good at playing by ear. What he reads is what he memorizes and then he can play it," said Arcand.
"He turned out to be an excellent student. He has come along really well."
Arcand is proud to see youth participate in traditional fiddle playing.
"It's good he (Daniels) likes to play. There are not too many Aboriginal kids nowadays who play Métis music. At a certain point fiddle music was just about dead; now there is a lot more people and youth beginning to play."
A prized fiddle
One of Daniels' uncles owned one of the first fiddles Arcand made. After his passing, the fiddle found its way into Daniels' possession.
Daniels has came a long way from his first performance at the elder's meal. Having played in front of hundreds of people at the First Peoples Festival in 2015 at Vancouver's Museum of Anthropology and the Regina Folk Festival in 2017, he is now much more comfortable in front of a crowd.
Daniels has created a fan base. Often, seniors and elders approach him to shake his hand or acknowledge some of the songs he has played. Many talk about how his music brings back memories.
"They say they like to see the new generation carry on the tradition of old-time fiddling, and that's really special to me," said Daniels. "Like, if they are going through a rough time in their lives, I am glad I can remind them of a better time. That is really powerful."
More to come
Daniels is also skilled in playing guitar, mandolin and banjo. The jack-of-many-trades is also an avid athlete, playing baseball, football, basketball and hockey.
"In Jordan's case there is only one way for him to go and that is up," said Arcand.
He thinks Daniels is on the right track to represent Saskatchewan in the Grand Masters, a national fiddle championship.
Daniels loves being able to say he accomplished what he puts his mind to.
"I just like being active and I am truly honoured to be able to keep my Mushums' memories alive in my music."