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  • Writer's pictureMonica Loreen Dillon

N’we Jinan Tour Part One: Songs of the Delta

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

A mobile music production team, N’we Jinan Studios, toured the Western Arctic this past winter, bringing youth in four communities in the region the opportunity to write, record and produce songs, and create music videos themselves. The N’we Jinan crew of four included facilitators Milan André Boronell and Andrei Savu, and two youth mentee facilitators, Derwin Watt and Kim Wapachee-McDougall. This is part one of a three-part series.





“Being able to see yourself in the people here teaching you is really special."






N’we Jinan crew (L-R) Kim Wapachee-McDougall, Derwin Watt,
Milan André Boronell, and Andrei Savu. (Photo: Monica Loreen Dillon.)

“Being able to see yourself in the people here teaching you is really special,” Kim told Cabin Radio. Kim is a mentee filmmaker with N’we Jinan who first got involved with them when they came to their community high school to facilitate a video. “The program itself made me realize that … it was possible to become an artist and be able to survive off of that.”


Through N’we Jinan’s Mobile Music and Production Studio, original songs were created that centered on themes of cultural identity, connections to the land, traditional language, mental health, love, and self-acceptance.


“I feel like it brings students out of their shell,” said facilitator, Andrei Savu, “and they’re doing something that they never did before.”


N’we Jinan means “we live here” in James Bay (Eastern) Cree, and this name was coined in 2014 by former Grand Chief of the Cree Nation Youth Council, Joshua Iserhoff and Montreal music producer and educator, David Hodges.


More than 500 Indigenous youth have participated across 40 communities, resulting in 80 songs and videos that have been viewed more than 15 million times online. Aklavik, Tuktoyaktuk, Paulatuk, and Fort McPherson are youth in those communities now among them. View their videos here.


First, N’we Jinan was in Aklavik….


N’we Jinan was originally invited to Moose Kerr School with support of the Beaufort Delta Education Council, and then WAYC took the lead in adding more communities to bring N’we Jinan on a mini tour around the North with the support of the Gwich’in Tribal Council and Inuvialuit Regional Corporation.


WAYC director Alyssa Carpenter has known about their work for some time. “It really resonates so much and I wanted to see that opportunity happen in a region I grew up in,” she told APTN. “Something like this is really needed. I’m bringing some young youth who are artists and helpers, as well as mentoring them and what it means to organize and support experiences like this.”


With the first Beaufort Delta-Mackenzie River stop in Aklavik from January 22nd-27th, the crew worked with students in Moose Kerr School in the development of their song Never Say Die, which is the community’s motto, and is centered around the impacts of addiction.


“It’s a good experience to know what it feels like singing in a studio, thinking of lyrics, and what they are doing now, making beats,” said Gabrielle McLeod in an interview with Cabin Radio. She said the lyrics in question focused on a teenager in lockdown, struggling with drug addiction.


Listen to ‘Never Say Die’ and watch the music video here.

Next, N’we Jinan went to Tuktoyaktuk…


“Life is hard, you’ve been through enough, Keep moving on, and don’t give up.” The lyric that the title Don’t Give Up stems from. Youth in Tuktoyaktuk were proud to bring all of their lyrics together and showcase their song with such powerful messages. Talks of mental health, residential schools and climate change were mentioned.

The chorus is quite catchy and goes “No No No we don’t wanna relocate (THIS IS MY HOME, MY HOME), No No No there’s no better place (WE LIVE HERE), And we’ll never go.”


It was our Storytelling Coordinator, Monica Loreen Dillon’s first trip with Western Arctic Youth Collective, and she said she was very impressed with the way the workshop was run, and how the youth reacted with such excitement and participation.


“It was so lovely to see how quickly they progressed from start to finish, the N’we Jinan crew made them feel comfortable and safe enough to be able to share their stories through these words. It’s important to be able to hold space for these youth and show them that they have a voice. From what I saw, this workshop is doing just that.” Monica praised.


A youth participant Kiara Cockney commented “I am in love with this song! It helped my mental health a lot to add my story into this, thank you guys for the amazing opportunity and can’t wait to see you all again!” Another participant Natalie Avik added, “I really really really love this song, it changed my life and my feelings too, and I can’t stop listening to it.”


Listen and watch the music video to ‘Don’t Give Up’ here.



“Life is hard, you’ve been through enough, Keep moving on, and don’t give up.”






The youth in Tuktoyaktuk shooting the music video outside

their local youth centre. (Photo: Monica Loreen Dillon.)



Next, N’we Jinan went to Paulatuk…


“We don’t need drugs to feel happy. We got the land and our family. Even when they go, You’re never alone. They’re a part of your soul,” said Susan Illasiak said in an interview with APTN.


Weaving cross-Inuit culture and sounds with hip hop, the youth worked in the community’s youth centre with N’we Jinan to develop an original song called Traditional Spirit. For the video, Susan chose the locations for filming, including the grave of her auntie.


“I feel really good about it because the song says something hard and it makes me feel the emotions,” says Susan. “It means a lot to me, I’ve quit a bit of bad habits from it.” Susan is also featured throat singing, which she said was one of her favourite parts of the experience.


“I haven’t throat sang since I was nine years old,” she says. “We were in the producer’s room and I asked if I could do the throat singing for the song. It was fun and just something different.


“It makes me feel like an actual Inuit person.”


“That’s legitimate cool,” says 13-year-old Paulatuk co-writer and singer Rihanna Ruben about the release. “It’s going to be cool hearing other people’s music.


“I hope you are proud of me.”


We are so proud of you!!!


Listen and watch the music video to ‘Traditional Spirit’ here.





“...We don’t need drugs to feel happy. We got the land and our family. Even when they go, You’re never alone. They’re a part of your soul...”





Group shot of the youth in Paulatuk. (L-R) Richard, Rihanna,

Susan and Jody. (Photo by Kim Wapachee-McDougall.)


Then, N’we Jinan went to Teetl’it Zheh Fort Mcpherson and Tsiigehtchic…


Everlasting was written and recorded by a group of youth from Teetl’it Zheh Fort McPherson and Tsiigehtchic. Lyrics of “I feel a rush, out in the bush, People don’t go out enough and I think they should” and a powerful chorus of “I am proud, of where I come from, Singing loud, we’re still strong, Oh oh oh, keep dancing, Oh oh oh, everlasting…” This song is catchy, and speaks loudly and proudly about culture, and their love for the land we all live on.


Listen and watch the music video to ‘Everlasting’ here.






“I am proud, of where I come from, Singing loud, we’re still strong, Oh oh oh, keep dancing, Oh oh oh, everlasting…”









Working on the lyrics for ‘Everlasting.’

(Photo: Kim Wapachee-Mcdougall.)


The completed songs from the four Beaufort Delta communities are featured on N’we Jinan’s ninth studio volume album Skygliders, that launched this past June. The album features 35 nations and close to 400 youth performers! Check out their album here.


 

N’we Jinan Studios are supported by a team of pedagogy, programming, and logistics experts committed to the transformative power of creative processes. The inPath team facilitates connections between schools, artists, communities, and builds relationships with people working in the creative sector. They also spend time organizing flights, shipping materials, and working out the complex logistics that come with hosting creative programming from coast to coast. inPath’s creative network fosters opportunities for youth to share their stories widely, connect with their peers, work with mentors, and build skills that extend beyond the walls of the classroom. Visit inPath.ca to learn more.


Visit N'we Jinans website here: https://nwejinan.com/



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