Music as medicine: Buffy Sainte-Marie talks politics, sex scandals and her brand new album

Buffy Sainte-Marie talks about being blacklisted by the entertainment industry, the ongoing sex scandals in Hollywood and the current controversy swirling around Lido Pimienta, another singer who isn't afraid to stand up and speak out.
Buffy Sainte-Marie's new album, Medicine Songs, features new recordings of songs from the 1960s to now. (The Regina Symphony Orchestra)

This episode originally aired on November 19, 2017

Buffy Sainte-Marie's career has spanned decades, from playing protest songs in coffee shops to sold-out arenas, rez festivals and pow wows.

In an extended conversation with Rosanna Deerchild, she talked about being blacklisted by the entertainment industry, the ongoing sex scandals in Hollywood and the current controversy swirling around Lido Pimienta — another singer who isn't afraid to stand up and speak out.

On her latest album, Medicine Songs, Sainte-Marie recorded new versions of some of her most loved songs. Click the Listen button above to hear some of those recordings, her full conversation and a few song picks.

On recording her new album, Medicine Songs:
Medicine Songs (Supplied)
"Songs continue to hit me, same old song yeah, but it continues to hit me in new meanings. I've been through so many different changes in the world. I wrote a song called My Country, Tis of Thy People You're Dying in the '60s. I mentioned the word genocide in talking about Indigenous people in the Americas and that had not been done before. People said, you must be mistaken! You must just be an angry Indian sticking up for your own side and they didn't believe that it was true. But now we've had truth and reconciliation. So now the song has more meaning to more people then it could have had when I first recorded it in the '60s. So you know times change, people change, things kind of come and go. They come to prominence and then they kind of fade back. But I think it's a perfect time for all of these songs to be in people's hands at the same time."

On her creative influences growing up:
"Mostly the Creator. See, I was a creative kid from the beginning. I didn't go to church, I didn't have anybody slapping my knuckles with a ruler trying to take piano lessons. So I really treasured the gift of creativity, even as a little kid. If you need to put it into European context, look at the English version of the Bible. It says, 'We're created in the image of the Creator,' and isn't that Indigeneity right there? Isn't that our Indigenous philosophy said in another way? So, I was inspired by my own creativity and the fact that this music was in my head and I could see these pictures in my mind that I could play with whatever I had to paint or draw with."

On the current sexual harassment and bullying allegations shaking up Hollywood:
"That's been around since before the Old Testament, and it's taken a long time for show business to confront it. And God bless every one of those people who has come forward. It's a thing not only in show business but it's in education, it's in business, it's in corporations, it's in families, it's in neighbourhoods. You know that kind of bullying, that kind of oppression. But it's carried out not only on women but on men and boys too, and it just plain got to go."

On the controversy around musician Lido Pimienta, who came under fire for calling "brown girls to the front" at a concert:
'I will not stop doing everything in my power to make oppressed people feel safe and show them the respect that they deserve at my shows,' said Lido Pimienta in a statement. (Alejandro Santiago Photography)
"We're each to be respected and it's good to have more of us, each of us being the unique person that we are. So each of us are reflecting our own experience. So more power to her for how she's doing it. I'm not doing it in the same way that she is. See for me, I've always been very careful since I was the only one out there talking about these things. I wasn't trying to hurt white people. I was trying to help everybody to understand what happened to Indigenous people. How we got into the position: poverty, poor health, that most Indigenous people in the world are in today."

Click the Listen button above to hear Buffy Sainte-Marie in conversation with Rosanna Deerchild.