Nagwetch, Little Sun, is a Canadian singer and songwriter who has been creating music since he was a child growing up in Quebec.
In the end of the 1990s, he settled in Finland and since that time has been working hard with Wabanag to create music that reaches into his Native American/Canadian Aboriginal roots while stirring the senses of his audience.
Related to the Mi'kmaq of Gesgapegiag and the Wabanaki people from the East Coast of Canada, Nagwetch has been in 2005 a finalist of the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards for his album ULODI (Well-Being/Happiness). His most recent album, BEMIA (Walk In Beauty) was released in 2013.
Nagwetch was born in the Gaspésie village of Chandler, Quebec and grew up in Cree and Mi'kmaq territories before moving with his family to Montreal. Surrounded by music his whole life, he composed his first song when he was just five years old.
Nagwetch says that he loved music as a child because he could express his feelings through it. He started serious song writing when he was 12 years old and started to play the guitar at 16. He learned his craft “all over” from producing music in Montreal to busking on the streets of European cities. He had his first band at the age of 18 together with his brother Riel, a laureate of the UNEP Global 500 Roll of Honor for environmental achievements.
When we query about his approach to music, Nagwetch says that, with Wabanag, his purpose is not to excell in composing complex music but to focus on creating a certain feeling that talks to people's heart. 'When people who come to my show are telling me that I have succeeded to bring them back to the deep and the ancient, to the essence of life and love, even for a short while, I'm really happy about that. In my tradition, we heal and teach people through music and storytelling. This is not something you learn at school, but by walking the Red Road, a commitment to living a life of humbleness, respect, friendship, and harmony with all life forms. In our contemporary world, it might sound a bit crazy and childish, but this is where we belong and where we'll return, in a way or another.'
In 2005, Nagwetch received a nomination for his album ULODI in the Best International Album category of CAMA, one of the largest multi-disciplinary Aboriginal arts event in North America. The nomination came as a surprise. As a result, Nagwetch was invited to perform in Toronto at CAMA's gala. It was his first visit to Canada in more than three years.
Nowadays, Nagwetch is sharing his time between Europe and Canada. He likes Europe where his music has a fair audience, especially in the Nordic countries. Here, live the Sami, the indigenous people of Europe.
When speaking about the Wabanaki musical, Nagwetch thinks that a big work has to be done to save what has been left and to create new material. ’Some people are working on it because music has always been at the center of our spiritual and social life. On the other hand, Native American music is in a period of unprecedented development and comes today in many different forms, including rock, pop, rap, hip-hop, reggae. Though the music continues to function even thrive in the traditions, young Native Americans listen to contemporary styles just like everybody else. I grew up surrounded by music of all kinds. Wabanag is one of my musical projects. I started it in Finland with young musicians of various ethnic backgrounds. It was an attempt to mix traditional contents inspired by my Wabanaki heritage with contemporary styles, especially blues. Native American music has been as influential as African music on the development of blues-rock, which is not widely yet recognized. It might be difficult to trace that influence in today's blues. However, an influence in the general attitude of the performers, in the ways to express a certain "feel" that is a key element of that music style can't be dismissed. Many established artists of the 1970s who have been influential on the development of rock music, such as Jimi Hendrix, Robbie Robertson, Rita Coolidge, Richie Havens, have clearly pointed out their Native American roots. Listening to the music of Buffy Sainte Marie, who was the first Native American artist to be signed by a major back in 1964, and was adopted by a couple of Mi'kmaq and Wabanaki ancestry, has given me some direction. It was possible to compose music that is traditional in its inspiration and modern in its expression .'
When asked about the reason why he has avoided the use on English language to compose his lyrics, Nagwetch says: ’While being in contact with Europeans since a very long time, our people have kept a clear sense of identity and a strong spiritual attitude towards life and nature that permeates into and through the language. This is why, despite the fact that I'm not fluent in Mi'kmaq, I have chosen to compose and sing in that language. My father taught me some basics and I learned the rest by myself. Of course, it would have been much easier to compose and sing in French and English, something I also do from time to time. I have a whole French repertoire. But Wabanag is something else, closer to my heart.'
About his audience, Nagwetch tells us that his family moved to Europe in the 1970s for political reasons. 'At that time racism against our people was still very strong in the US and Canada. We are slowly recovering from that hatred but there is still a long road to walk. As a result I spent quite much time in Europe and have become familiar with its people. I believe there is a kind of respect, sometimes romanticism, towards what they call the 'Indians'. I'm fine with that. Of course, in Europe there is no strong Native diaspora - I mean something you could compare to the African diaspora for instance. But people in the North value nature in a similar way than Canadians. This might be what connects us.'
Wabanag's new album BEMIA is out now (2013). It is an invitation to 'Walk in Beauty', a Native way to say that the purpose of life is to learn to live in harmony with all our relations.
More about Nagwetch: nagwetch.com
and Wabanag: www.wabanag.net
By Eric E. van Monckhoven of Music4You