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Classical musicians pushing for more involvement in Indigenous projects

Indigenous classical musicians have a message for the music industry: nothing about us without us.

The Canadian Indigenous Classical Music Gathering was one of the first gatherings of its kind

Melody and Beverly McKiver were part of a gathering of Indigenous musicians in Banff, Alberta in February. (Supplied by Melody McKiver)

Indigenous classical musicians have a message for the music industry: nothing about us without us.

Musicians met in Banff earlier this month for the Canadian Indigenous Classical Music Gathering.

It was one of the first gatherings of its kind, and included musicians from Alberta, the west coast, and northern Ontario.

Along with creating music, participants also drafted a statement to the music industry about the importance of including Indigenous musicians in any music project involving Indigenous culture.

The statement is co-signed by ten musicians altogether, including Jeremy Dutcher and Cris Derksen.

Lac Seul First Nation's Melody McKiver, a violist and composer based in Sioux Lookout, Ont., said said the statement is asking for a "profound" change in the field.

"One example that's become almost cliche in Canadian music is where Indigenous people aren't consulted in the telling of our own stories," McKiver said.

"We are dealing with a lot of issues of appropriation, so both recognizing the contributions of Indigenous musicians in the classical music world as well as addressing the cultural appropriation that has become really foundational to major institutions."

At a gathering in Banff, Indigenous musicians drafted a statement to the music industry about the importance of including Indigenous musicians in any project involving Indigenous culture. (Supplied by Melody McKiver)

Some of the common "grey areas" McKiver said musicians wade into are when throat singers are asked to perform with orchestras and ballets, or groups incorporate pow-wow drums into their act.

"The discussions we've had is like do non-Indigenous composers understand that the sacred and spiritual elements that something like a pow-wow drum have to Anishinaabe people, especially, but many other communities across the country as well."

"Things like 'Going Home Star' with the ballet that received a lot of accolades...it was portrayed as an Indigenous story at the time because Joseph Boyden wrote it and then things happened there and then we really need to re-evaluate that work again," McKiver said.

The burgeoning movement is also spreading across other countries and institutions, McKiver said.

"There's a lot of work happening in Australia and some of my colleagues there have been involved in really similar movements," McKiver said. "We also look at other institutions like the Indigenous theatre community and the Indigenous literature community because they often have very parallel discussions to the issues that we're facing."

To listen to the full interview with Melody McKiver, click the audio link below.

Indigenous classical musicans met in Banff earlier this month for the Canadian Indigenous Classical Music Gathering. It was one of the first gatherings of its kind, and included a few musicians from northern Ontario. Along with creating music, they also drafted a statement to the music industry about the importance of including Indigenous musicians in any music project involving Indigenous culture. The statement is co-signed by ten musicians altogether, including Jeremy Dutcher and Cris Derksen. Melody McKiver is a violist and composer based in Sioux Lookout who's a member of Lac Seul First Nation. They were also part of the gathering of Indigenous composers and performers. CBC's Waubgeshig Rice spoke with McKiver to ask how the statement came about. 9:37