Attawapiskat resident Adrian Sutherland, an old friend of mine, and his fellow members of the band Midnight Shine recently launched a new First Nation music production. James Bay musicians have produced a lot of great music over the past few decades and Midnight Shine is part of a new crop of Aboriginal performers to add to this tradition.
Laughter and music has been two of the great tools of survival of First Nations. All my life, I have been surrounded by friends and family members who could sing, play the fiddle and step dance. The Scottish, Irish, French and English fur traders had a big impact on our culture when they introduced us to the fiddle. Of course, the drum always had a place in our music from the days of my ancestors and now happily it is being featured more and more with traditional drum groups all over the country.
Adrian and his younger brother Andrew have been part of several traditional drumming and singing groups for many years. Their family has always had a strong connection to Aboriginal culture and traditional activities. I know that Adrian has always loved music.
One of the mainstays of music in Aboriginal communities has always been Country and Western. I recall listening to so many country records, cassettes and then CDs over the years. Great country artists like George Jones, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Hank Snow were part of my experience as a child growing up in Attawapiskat. This type of music has influenced our communities on the James Bay coast over many decades and it was a starting point for many music performers in the north.
We had our own local musicians too with the Nakogee brothers, who have entertained us for decades at community events and dances. George Nakogee, one of the lead singers, is now better known for working as a show host for Wawatay Radio on the James Bay coast. There have been other music artists to come out of James Bay, such as Lawrence Martin, Vern Cheechoo, Archie Cheechoo and Ron Kataquapit.
Adrian and his band, which includes drummer George Gillies, guitarist Zach Tomatuck and bassist Stan Louttit, have produced a wonderful album. Among my favourites are James Bay and Indian In Disguise. They describe the modern world my Aboriginal generation currently lives in, where we have one foot in the past and one foot in the present. Adrian wrote most of the songs on the album, while his sister Iris Sutherland revealed her writing talent on the song Small Town Girl. You can check out the band’s music at www.midnightshineonline.com
I am so happy that Adrian is making his dreams come true. He has a great voice and the band is musically very tight. Recorded at Noble Street Studios in Toronto, the album was produced by Douglas Romanow and mastered by George Seara.
Adrian is a hard worker and he knows first-hand what it is to be an Anishinabe person in our modern world. He understands very well where he has come from and where he is going. The music world and life in the big city is uncompromising and there are lots of cracks and potholes on the highway to success. Alcohol and drugs are a big part of the music scene and Adrian will have to draw on his knowledge as a traditional person and his experience in the world of addictions to keep strong in his path.
It’s great to see positive news coming out of Attawapiskat. Like many First Nations, my community has had to deal with so many issues over the past few decades. Adrian is proof that strong connections to our traditions and culture produce positive results.
Look for good things from Adrian Sutherland and Midnight Shine and support their efforts. We need more role models like Adrian and his band members.