• Posted on November 12, 2013

Caribou Song

The dual language Caribou Song by award-winning author and playwright Tomson Highway was first published in 2001 with illustrations by Brian Deines. The story is in print again, with stunning new illustrations by John Rombough, a Chipewyan Dene artist living in the Northwest Territories. Also new is the inclusion of a colloquial (Ateek Oonagamoon) dialect of Cree, replacing the original high Cree (Atihko Nikamon) translation.

Caribou Song dancingSet in Manitoba ‘too far north for most trees’, Caribou Song is the story of two brothers, Joe and Cody, who follow the year-long caribou migration with their parents. They live a traditional, nomadic life of dog sleds, bannock, and rather unexpectedly, accordion music. To engage the caribou and draw them out of the forest into the open, Joe plays the accordion, called kitoochigan in Cree, while his brother Cody dances ‘with his arms up like antlers.’ Music, as they say, soothes the savage ungulate.

One day in late spring, the caribou heed the boys’ musical call in an exhilarating and dangerous way. ‘Faster than lightening’, ten thousand caribou fill the meadow. As a sea of antlers roars by, Cody takes Joe by the hand and ‘swims’ to a big rock, where they hear the spirit voice of the caribou rising above the din of the herd. The boys lift their arms in exultation, embracing the spirit. Fearing the worst, the parents are relieved to see Joe and Cody laughing on the rock as the herd dissipates.

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  • Posted on May 18, 2011

Pleased to Meet You

“And once it’s written, the history of the blues. They’ll cheer a dead man’s genius. Never ask them whose.”

I know nothing about The Blues. When I was growing up, Dean Martin and the comedy records of Bill Cosby were the only sounds coming from our console stereo. Once I started buying my own music, it was decidedly north of the Mississippi. Way north. While others were discovering the Delta Blues for the first time, I was still dancing to Swedish Pop. I’ve liked what I’ve heard over the years, and I have more than a passing aquaintance with the melancholic state of being that drives the lyrics, but I am a novice when it comes to understanding the music. Black Cat Bone is a window into an unfamiliar world, and appropos to this blog, the road to the blues is paved with illustrative gold.

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