Voices of the Land is an unusual compilation. It is neither music, nor poetry, nor spoken word and teaching. It is the combination of all these that takes you on a journey. It is the journey of the people of Chisasibi and it is a beautiful one. It contains anger, loss, hope and a host of other emotions that make up humanity. It is an odyssey of the soul of a people and the land. The amount of work to create a work like this is nothing short of unbelievable but the proof was there in my hands. While I was listening to the two CD set I would grab the liner notes (19 pages) and go through it. When I spoke to Roger House, the co-ordinator of the project, he told me that he was advised to submit it to the Juno Awards. Yes, it is that much of a winner. So much so I had to talk to Roger about Voices of the Land.
The Nation: When did you start to work on it?
Roger House: It came out of the Cree gathering that happened last year. The idea at that time was to record various artists and make another compilation album. Once I knew the material and the plan was very vague I decided to get a more concrete idea. Drawing on my experience in the music field I realized that the idea of recording starts with the material so I had to back up a bit and take a good look at what we were doing. This idea came about after meeting with musicians here [Chisasibi], thinking about costs and the reality of recording live. When you record live you have to be almost perfect to make it sound good.
I looked at it all and decided we should do a chronological story of Chisasibi. We have a lot of musicians here. There are a lot of talented people who write their own material about things that have happened in the past. We’ve been working on this all year and now we are putting the finishing touches on it.
When can we expect it to hit the Cree market?
The recording is all done. We are just finishing the album cover and jacket. We’re putting Cree syllables on it. When we’re finished with that it will be two weeks for the manufacturing. It should take about a month.
I was listening to the CD’s and I noticed that residential schools played a part in the compilation as well as the dams and the impacts. Do you look at Voices on the Land as a healing journey too?
We’ve let people listen to it to get their feedback. We’ve noticed it helps them to bring out these feelings that were buried for years. There is a healing aspect to it. This might help with the ongoing healing by natives who have been to residential school. We hope that will be something good for them.
What other types of feed back have you gotten from people who have field tested Voices on the Land7 We’re working with some people in the music business down south like Randall Prescott. Just yesterday he told me that this material should be submitted to the Juno Selection Committee. I guess he thinks it’s that good.
Do you think it’s that good?
I’m rather proud of it. Even though we had a lot of different people work on it, that gave it a variety that is the spice of the material. It’s like the total range of the rainbow. Voices of the Land has all the aspects of the community of Chisasibi. In this way we worked together like one person, one rainbow so to speak or one people. It was a bit of a headache to put it all together in the studio but we did it. It was more hours than I care to think about.
Are you planning to release it to just the Cree market to begin with?
We’ve gotten calls from as far away as France as to when the album is coming out. The point of this album is to let the world know our story and there is a lot of interest in it.
I found it to be an interesting album. Something that I would definitely want for my collection. Will you be looking at building on this project? Say a video?
I’m a bit knowledgable about the music business and what goes along with it like promotion, distribution and all that. We’re taking it step by step so we don’t make any major mistakes. We will be looking at these things in our own way and in our own time.
Would you recommend other Cree communities do a similar project?
It would be good. It would carry the stories of the Cree to the world and there’s a lot of teachings that the Cree can pass on to the world.