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Lost Tunes of Rupert’s Land

Lost Tunes of Rupert’s Land

A Collection of Forgotten Canadian Metis Fiddle Tunes

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Old style Metis fiddling is a unique musical style which reflects the cultural roots of the Metis nation itself, a people born from French-Canadian, Scottish, and Orcadian fur traders and Cree and Ojibwa women. The melodies of Metis fiddle tunes bear characteristics of old Scottish and French-Canadian fiddling styles, while the tunes’ erratic rhythms and phrasings reflect the influence of First Nations singing traditions. art-2Metis fiddling evolved throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries, spreading throughout Rupert’s Land- the vast territory controlled by the Hudson’s Bay Company- by way of the fur trails. By the mid 19th Century, Metis fiddling could be heard in settlements all across Western Canada, from the Metis camps of Manitoba to the fur trading posts of the Rocky Mountains. The proliferation of Metis fiddling came to an abrupt halt in the mid 1880’s, in the wake of the suppression of the North-West Rebellion and the execution of Metis revolutionary Louis Riel. Many Metis, ashamed of their heritage, tried to pass themselves off as white or Indian, when they could, and many Metis cultural expressions, including old style fiddling, gradually faded into obscurity. Nearly a century after Riel’s death, a Canadian fiddler named Anne Lederman was introduced to old style Metis fiddling- a relic of a bygone era which, by that time, was largely confined to small rural communities in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, teetering precariously on the verge of obsolescence. Hoping to study and preserve this dying Western Canadian art form, she made and collected over a hundred scratchy recordings of nameless old style Metis fiddle tunes, performed by a handful of Metis elders. Lederman’s collection is, to quote the Canadian Metis magazine New Breed, “the most important collection of old time Metis fiddle music ever published.” In the 1980’s, old style Metis fiddling- due in part to Lederman’s efforts- made a comeback in what has been called the ‘Metis Cultural Renaissance’. Metis fiddlers like John Arcand and Calvin Vollrath breathed new life into the art behind-cd-4form by composing and recording hundreds of original Metis-style fiddle tunes. Today, Metis fiddling is a celebrated Canadian tradition that enjoys a growing following. The tunes in this CD are modern reproductions of some of the nameless traditional old style Metis fiddle tunes preserved in Lederman’s recording collection. Many of the tunes’ names are the actual names of long-forgotten frontier tunes alluded to in late 19th Century Canadian prairie newspapers. Each fiddle tune is accompanied by a traditional buffalo skin drum in an attempt to evoke the spirit of the old fur trails of Rupert’s Land, on which old style Metis fiddle tunes were first played so long ago.

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