Renowned local Indigenous artist Kym Gouchie woke up with a melody in her head recently and that's a great beginning for her next project.
Gouchie said she is the blessed recipient of a Canada Council for the Arts grant to research and compose a children's album in her ancestral languages.
Soon she'll be speaking with language keepers and mentors from all across the province, beginning with those here on the traditional territory of the Lheidli T'enneh.
"My inspiration truly was my late grandmother Mary Gouchie and just being an Indigenous person knowing that languages are such a vital part of our culture," she said.
There are very few Lheidli language speakers left and Gouchie knows that even within that language there are different dialects and to preserve the language for future generations is very important.
"I think truly what it is that I'm doing is a creative expression of my journey in learning the language of my ancestors," Gouchie said. "That includes Lheidli T'enneh, Cree on my father's side - I know more Cree than I do my other ancestral languages that also includes the Shuswap Secwépemc. So I've been really inspired by the fact that music can reach anyone. That means it can reach children and even adults and this album even though it's for children it's really for everyone and their inner child. I want to do something that's fun and engaging to preserve language which can be used in the classroom or in a home or in a daycare setting."
The songs will teach numbers, colours and animals.
"It truly is an expression of creativity through language and music," Gouchie said. "I'm just going to have fun with it and hopefully honour my ancestors and hold space for language, for culture, for stories, for my grandmothers, my grandparents who at points in their lives were punished for speaking their language and I'm very aware of that. I want to be the change. I want my grandchildren to be able to listen to these songs, to learn them and to understand who they are through music. It's difficult to teach someone their identity but I think music is a beautiful vehicle for that."
Gouchie said part of her ancestry also includes having an Irish bloodline so there may be a hint of that in the album as well.
Rae Spoon, a non-binary performer, composer, music producer, visual content producer/director and author, will be working with Gouchie on this project.
Because of the pandemic, the project will look a bit different in order to keep everyone safe, so instead of mostly in-person meetings, the research will be done through online avenues and luckily many of the language keepers and elders have those options available to them while others will be accessed by the telephone.
"I'm super excited to get started," Gouchie said.
"Hopefully if we get a flattened curve I could sit down with somebody but we're not pushing for that."
This month, she will work with the Lheidli T'enneh, February will see a connection with the Cree Nation and March will be the month to connect with the Secwépemc language keepers and elders. After that the writing process will begin.
Preproduction will begin in July when Spoon will travel to Prince George. Soon after that, rehearsal will start with artists that will be joining Gouchie on the album, including Brigitte Demeter from the Okanagan and Dan Barton from Edmonton.
The plan is to have the album released in January 2022 and start touring.
It took three applications before her project was accepted as a Canada Council for the Arts grant recipient.
Gouchie has been on the other side of it as a juror trying to decide between amazing projects so she understands how difficult it can be to choose and she's very grateful to be a recipient now, she added.
"Yes, there was a pretty big happy dance done over here," Gouchie laughed.
For more information about Gouchie, visit her website at https://kymgouchie.com/.