Indigenous languages ​​in the Francouvertes: “We want to be heard”

Languages Natives to the Francouvertes: «We want to be heard»

The NINAN group will participate in the Francouvertes showcase competition on March 14th.

For the first time, the Les Francouvertes competition, which offers a showcase for emerging musical talent, opens the door this year to artists who sing in an Aboriginal language. An opportunity for the two selected Innu groups to tell their story in their language.

Since its creation in 1995, the event has welcomed well-established French-speaking groups such as Les Cowboys Fringants, Les Soeurs Boulay and Loco Locass. To discover the next generation of Aboriginal people, the showcase competition now leaves room for artists First Nations and Inuit peoples and their languages.

The singer-songwriter from the community of Uashat mak Mani-Utenam, on the North Shore, Dan-Georges Mckenzie and the folk rock group NINAN, originally from the Innu nation of the community of Matimekush-Lac John, were selected from over 200 nominations, a total of four of which were submitted by Indigenous singers.

While they did not necessarily expect to be chosen, the artists emphasize that they are proud to be able to promote their music while representing their community.

“We were a little surprised, but at the same time happy and proud. We are proud that doors are quietly opening in the Quebec world for Indigenous people. I think we deserve it. I think that the indigenous people have their place in Quebec music to sing their story”, mentions the singer of the group NINAN, Freddy Cluney, in an interview with Métro. 

Sharing above all

According to Freddy Cluney, it was high time for non-natives and natives to work together. “We live in the same province. The rest of us also want to be heard, the Aboriginals. If we listen to tunes from Quebec, why shouldn't Quebecers also listen to Innu tunes?” he asks.

This is also the opinion of 31-year-old artist Dan-Georges Mckenzie, who is delighted that these nations are finally being given the chance to be together. “It's going to be cool, you're going to see a new audience, you're going to see new people. You won't just have to go sing at the Nikamu, which is the festival here in Mani-Utenam [an Innu community of the North Shore] to discover your music, there will be other places like Les Francouvertes ”, he said.

We like to play music and tell our story in our language. […] The shows we do, it's mostly in the aboriginal communities, but if the door is open to enter the world of Quebecers, so much the better because we love music and we want to be heard!

Freddy Cluney, singer of the group NINAN

While an event like Les Francouvertes welcomes Indigenous languages ​​with open arms, others continue to impose French quotas even on Indigenous artists. In a public outing, Algonquin rapper Samian criticized the Festival international de la chanson de Granby (FICG) for forbidding him to sing in his language, Anishinaabemowin. The festival imposed a quota of songs in French on him.

The winner of the 21st edition and co-spokesperson for the Francouvertes this year, Lydia Képinski, thinks that Aboriginal artists have a lot to offer to the public, but also to non-Aboriginal participants in the competition. “You sit down with [Indigenous artists] for five minutes, you chat and a lot of things change. Your perspectives change with these encounters,” she says.

The singer-songwriter recalls how rewarding her collaboration with the Anishinaabe-Métis and Inuit trio Quantum Tangle for the track Signal was.

She also mentions that the “common ground of music” can help improve relationships between people. “What brings them [participants] together right now is the music,” she said. […] If these people have something in common, it will make relationships more fun. I think it's a step in the right direction.”

By showing the talent we have at home and that music is common to all, we will be able to open other doors to other Aboriginals.

Dan-Georges Mckenzie, Innu singer-songwriter

Music, a universal language

Spokesperson Lydia Képinski believes that the Quebec public is ready to hear more music native. “It would be ridiculous to say that the language barrier changes anything. There are people who listen to music in English without really understanding the text,” she argues.

Moreover, she believes that Quebec must take Indigenous languages ​​more seriously. According to the singer, this goes through Aboriginal language programs from high school. “Knowing a language really is the key to a door to a culture,” she stresses.

Although music is universal, Indigenous artists believe it is important that the message of their songs be clear. This is why both Dan-Georges Mckenzie and the group NINAN intend to explain the words of each text before their interpretation.

“Before I play a tune, I'm going to take 10 seconds to at least explain what the tune is, tell a bit of the story and explain what we are talking about. We talk a lot about the lived experience, the past, the present moment and our daily life in the community”, explains the singer of NINAN, Freddy Cluney. 

The 26th edition of the Francouvertes was launched last night at the Cabaret Lion d’Or. The competition will begin on March 14 with the confrontation of three candidates, including the NINAN group.

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