I have always been fascinated with stories from the northern regions of Canada, but I have only ever known one side of those tales that came out of the European exploration's, I was told nothing of the people that lived there, and had done so for many generations. Then, a few years ago, I was introduced to David Newland, a Canadian author, photographer, adventurer, musician and singer / songwriter, who at the time was working on a project that told the story of the European Northwest Passage explorers and their demise, his research and ultimately his recorded songs gave a very different view of these journeys through his understanding of the Inuit people and their culture.
This research and David's many journey's to the region as an ambassador for Adventure Canada have led to his latest project ' Northbound ' a live recorded album containing 12 songs that convey his knowledge and passion for the land, people and culture of the areas he visits.
Foremost on this album is the fact that it's a collection of stories through song, giving great insight into a culture that southern Canadians vaguely know about, it points to the fact that the high Arctic region is home to a people in scattered communities, who live, work and play in the very harsh environment, these communities are bound by traditional ways and teachings that are in place to hand down their cultural identities to the next generation, and that importantly exist to help them survive in a climate that most of us could not even start to comprehend. It is important to note that David has tastefully included some of the traditional elements to this recording with contributions by Inuit performers, and in recognition of the use of traditional Inuit songs, a portion of the proceeds from sales of the recording are being donated to the Pitquhirnikkut / Kitikmeot Heritage Society.
The album starts with the track ' No Way To Stay Warm ', the song is about Sir John Franklin's ill fated voyage by sea that Inuit peoples had already made by land, sea and ice, through what southerners call the Northwest Passage, which is actually a path through the Inuit homelands of Inuvaliut, Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and Kallalit Nunaait.
the Inuit people have lived in the arctic region of Canada which stretches from the North Pacific to the North Atlantic for many generations, there is no record of Inuit people having lived on Beechey Island where the expedition of Franklin overwintered during his search for the Northwest Passage, some crew members died there in that very inhospitable place and the song ' Poor William Braine ' eloquently speaks to that.
Other tracks that stand out for me are ' Under Forever Skies ' a beautiful arrangement and story through song describing the scale of the landscape, the endless timescale and that the history of our planet is all around and visible in the rocks, the sea, the ice and in the mountains, glaciers and icebergs. There is also ' This Moment On The Sea ' which starts with a traditional Inuit throatsong called ' Seagull ' featuring Siqniup Qilauta it exudes the beauty and scale of the region, a place where David considers himself extremely fortunate to be able to introduce travellers to on his journeys as a guide and host with Adventure Canada. ' Musk Ox Stew ' delightfully conveys the hospitality shown to visitors to the region by the Inuit people, through social gatherings, dance, music and food.
This album is such a monumental undertaking in many ways, to get the cultural aspects right and in keeping with the Inuit peoples traditions is something that only someone like David Newland could possibly get right, his unique insight and understanding shine through, another aspect of this album is that it was recorded live, that is no mean feat to get right, but once again with the help and brilliance of Michael F. Nunan the magic of the live event has been captured.
Lastly, if you are going to record live, who should you pick and trust to convey a message that you have spent seven years writing and cultivating ? The answer is some of the best traditional musicians in Southern Ontario, Saskia Tomkins, Steafan Hannigan, Oisin Hannigan, Sam Allison, Annie Sumi, Tannis Slimmon, Rachel Barreca and many more. There is also the talented traditional Inuit performers who include Lynda Brown, Heidi Langille, Johnny Issaluk, Lois Suluk and more.
I marvel at David Newland's vast knowledge of the Arctic region, I am in awe of his understanding of the people, traditions, culture and the landscape on which they live, in ' Northbound ' he manages to convey the message that we should all revisit our understanding of what we have been taught, it should encourage us to find out more, not of who or what we already know, but most crucially of what we have not been told and who has been left out of the picture, which will enable us all to piece together a fuller understanding and a real history of this beautiful region and it's people.
The album launch is Friday June 7, 7:30 p.m. at the Concert Hall at Victoria Hall, Cobourg, ON.
The show will feature a complete performance of ' Northbound ' plus new songs. David will perform with his band, Uncharted Waters, and Inuit cultural performers Siqiniup Qilauta / Sunsdrum, The event will include a screening of the mini-documentary, Which Way Does Your Compass Point ? Featuring images, video, and stories from David’s travels in the Northwest Passage.
I highly recommend the album and if you get a chance to see the live show I would urge you to do so, it's a thoroughly entertaining event. Look out for David touring this show across Canada and beyond throughout the remainder of 2019 and into 2020.
Visit David Newland's website http://www.davidnewland.com/music