Editor’s note: This article is part of a series called New Music Mondays, where we feature new music by musicians from the Greater Sudbury area on Mondays. If you’re an area musician and would like us to profile your work, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is a rhythm to everything; to the world around us, to the tides and the moon, even our own heartbeats. Some would say if you listen hard enough, you can hear the beat of the earth through the roots of trees.
It’s not always strong. For some, the connection is so separated that there exists only a soft vibration.
For others, people like Sudbury’s Bryden Gwiss Kiwenzie, a singer and song maker and celebrated pow wow men's traditional dancer, have been connecting to rhythm, to a beat, from a very young age.
They are the dancers.
If you, like Kiwenzie, are an excellent dancer, then perhaps you, like him, will find that beat comes through you to others, allowing you to share the rhythms of the earth.
And in Kiwenzie’s case, you won’t need to know how to read music to be a composer. You won’t need to stop dancing to create music.
You find that rhythm in all parts of your life, whether that is as a parent, a partner, as a First Nations person, a community services worker or simply, Bryden Gwiss.
Then you’ll get the chance to create with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
Kiwenzie is Ojibway, Odawa, Potawatomi, Delaware, Mikmaq and Oneida originally from Neyaashiinigaming (Cape Croker, Ont.) and Sipekne' katik (Indian Brook, NS) with ties to Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory.
In 2017, his debut album Round Dance & Beats was nominated for a Juno Award (Indigenous Music Album of the Year) and two Indigenous Music Awards.
He released his second album, The Forgotten T.R.U.T.H (The.Real.Un.Told.History) in August of 2020. It was supposed to be out earlier than that and followed by a summer of performances.
Then, well, some stuff happened. Pandemic, second wave, cancellations.
But while many have found themselves with little to do during a time when there is nothing to do, others have been overwhelmed.
That is one flaw in the beauty of rhythm; rhythm is about ‘time.’Life is rarely kind to those trying to find ‘time’ to create, or those trying to bend it to their will.
“I’m so busy lately it’s hard to find the time,” said Kiwenzie. “Unless I stay up past my bedtime.”
But that doesn’t mean he won’t be participating in an amazing musical experience.
Red Sky describes Mistatim in the following way: “An unforgettable story of reconciliation, Mistatim is about the taming of a wild horse and the truest of friendships.”
The piece, which will be offered digitally, will also include newly created music by four Indigenous music creators and eight Toronto Symphony Orchestra musicians. One of the four Indigenous music creators is Kiwenzie.
The creative process comes easy for Kiwenzie, he says, but it is the form that takes the time. “I find it easy to find the story I want to tell but I find it takes a long time to put your story into song form. Always changing lyrics and switching words around until it sounds like it’s meant to be. As an Ojibway First Nations person, I smudge with sage whenever I feel overwhelmed or if there are negative thoughts or feelings, I will light a smudge and probably sing a song in my hand drum or listen to pow wow music or native flute music.”
And much of Kiwenzie’s time is spent in pursuit of his beloved two young children, one of whom is non-verbal and autistic. That, in addition to working for Shakagamik-Kwe Health Centre teaching pow wow singing, and full time at Nogdawindamin Family and Community Services in the culture department.
“We work with children in care and their families, helping them, giving them teachings about First Nations culture,” said Kiwenzie. “We offer them their spirit names, colours and clans. We teach them about our sacred medicines, teach them about songs, dance, ceremony and take them out to the bush and do land-based teachings like hunting, fishing, medicine picking etc. We are there to help the children and their families regain the culture to help with healing and also just to be proud to be Anishinaabe.”
Kiwenzie makes special note of a program he’s a part of at Nogdawindamin, a four-day virtual workshop called Pathways.
“It is an amazing training workshop that truly speaks of the actual real history of Canada,” said Kiwenzie. “The information in this workshop should have been taught in school long ago, but instead the Canadian government cheated the Canadian citizens by not teaching the truth.
“We were taught about all the good but not the bad and that’s what is missing from history. It's not about converting or shaming. It’s about educating, listening, understanding and most of all healing. Because we are all in this together.”
In other words, we are all dancing to the same rhythm, the same beat. Whether you hear it in your own heartbeat, or that of your partner or child, if you hear the lapping of water on the shore, or even the sap as it drips from a tree in spring.
It’s about listening for the beat, and dancing to it.
Jenny Lamothe is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at Sudbury.com. She covers the Black, Indigenous, immigrant and Francophone communities.