Q

Katherena Vermette's musical tribute to Winnipeg's North End

The Canadian author provides a playlist of songs that remind her of her hometown neighbourhood.
Author Katherena Vermette's book The Break was a finalist for this year's Governor General's Award for fiction. (katherenavermette.com)
Listen7:06

In a new segment we call the q Block Party, we invite guests to pay a musical tribute to the neighbourhoods they hold dear to their hearts. 

Today, author and Governor General's Award for fiction finalist Katherena Vermette takes listeners on a guided musical tour through Winnipeg's North End, a place that has a reputation for poverty and violence — but there's also a lot worth celebrating there. 

Below are Vermette's song picks and her reasons behind them.

Oasis, "Wonderwall" 
"This song reminds of driving around in broken-down cars where there's too many people in the back seat and someone always has to duck in case the cops see you. It's smoking cigarettes with your friends and singing along to this great love song." 

Neko Case, "Pretty Girls"
"This is the song that always makes me cry. There's a lot of pretty girls in the North End. We have a lot of sad stories in Winnipeg, we have a lot of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. The girls I think of in this song are the girls that are walking down the street, the girls who are sometimes standing on the street, and the girls that have so much power and I just wish they had more choices than they were given in this world." 

The Tragically Hip, "Boots or Hearts"
"This song is always played at a social. What is a Manitoba social? People throw a party and it usually happens pre-wedding or it's a fundraiser for something. It's a tradition and you have to go even if you don't want to. It's always played kind of later at the social, some time around the time when the bread and the meat and the cheese and the mustard come out. This is the song where men who really know how to dance come up and dance by themselves and they can just groove it with their string ties and silk shirts. There's just happiness in this song." 

A Tribe Called Red, "Sisters"
"This is the ultimate dance song. The funny thing about this song is I played this album getting ready for something one day and it made me feel great. It made me feel like I nailed that eyeliner. And then when I saw the video, the video is girls getting ready and they're just loving each other and loving themsevles in their mukluks — it's just beautiful, it's just happiness." 

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