STUDIO JIIMAAN 2.0

“Oh oh oh ya

I will sing for the ice to break

I will sing for the rivers to run

I will sing for the thaw to take

I will sing for the spring to come

Oh oh oh ya, for the spring to come

I will sing to free the lake

I will sing for the rain to run

I will sing for the seed to wake

I will sing for the spring to come

Oh I had a dream about spring coming right along

Oh about a nice way to ask them for a song

So I asked the mountain if she might wanna move me

She said tell the rivers to wake up the lake see

Rivers take it from sky into home base

And yellow belly hawks know how the kill tastes

Singing for the spring is like kissing pretty things

And change is like fire, change is like wings

Birch bark and maple and seas of black hair

Sing baby sing love fill the air

Oh oh oh ya

For the spring to come

Oh oh oh ya

For the spring to come”

“Spring To Come” by the band Digging Roots

This is one of my favourite songs by Digging Roots, an incredible Indigenous group….hell an incredible group period. I’m proud to count them as my friends.

Oh I had a dream….NO I have a dream….a vision that some of us are working towards becoming much more than just a dream….very soon hopefully. But let me share a bit of what that dream is. A dream called STUDIO JIIMAAN.

But why call a recording studio after a canoe? In Anishinaabemowin (Ojibway language)? Wiigwaasi-Jiimaan: birch bark canoe. Through STUDIO JIIMAAN we will be able to create a vessel that will take us on an incredible journey….allow others to participate in that journey and even take their own journeys. As a former birch bark canoe builder it just seemed to make sense.

It has been said: “To know where one is going, one must know from where one has come.” In doing so, it is also good to think in canoe terms: “When in doubt, keep the open end up, and the pointed end forward.” Or like the Telecaster just keep it simple.

SO the name….STUDIO JIIMAAN….just makes sense.

Music is the universal language….it is healing….and a way we can share our stories….better understand each other.

For me, having decided to pursue my interest in music, to get more involved in the music business, it has been an interesting time. I was supposed to start at Harris Institute in The Audio Production Program (APP) and The Arts Management Program (AMP) together to combine for The Music Business Professional certification last March. But COVID-19 prevented that, and I decided to withdraw from Harris instead of continuing to wait….and subsequently I enrolled in the online Music Production certificate program of the Berklee School of Music, which I recently completed.

I am 65 years old….supposedly retirement age….and I am still trying to figure out my life. Oh I am fortunate to have a great lady in my life….reasonably good health aside from a few (or several) aches and pains plus type 2 diabetes and arthritis….ok my health could be far better….yes I could be in better shape….smoke less and exercise more….but most of my faculties are still intact.

But I have been unsure about what I should do next….I am far from ready to ‘retire’. I know my wife would say I’m having a ‘mid-life crisis’.

I have thought for some time about getting involved more in the music business….music is a passion….music is healing….and I support Indigenous music which is an important way to share our story.

I dreamed of a music recording studio, with an Indigenous theme….either as a non-profit or as a collective/cooperative….maybe even an Indigenous music label. I looked at lots of possible spaces for such a studio….more than once had thought I’d found a good space….along the way met an incredible studio designer…..and even created a team as well as support for such an endeavour.

But I was never sure if that was the best path to take. Bit much maybe at this time of life.

I still have a passion for the canoe….for the jiimaan….and where it can take us. It is part of me….and my story.

I started to return to my visual art….I love to paint….and the stories that art can tell. I love writing….even rants and raves like this post.

Whatever I decided to do would be based on the whole concept of storytelling….whatever form it takes: music….painting….theatre….or written word. Of telling our stories….our teachings….our traditions….our culture. To try to bring awareness and educate those who don’t quite get us.

So whatever the rest of my life was to hold, I guess it was to include storytelling. I have been a teacher….a social worker….an artist…a canoe builder…..a musician….a storyteller…..and several other labels might apply as well. Or not.

I love my community….even as dysfunctional as it can be at times….but I will always work for my people. I had a great teacher in Art Solomon….who said there was two type of people….those that do….and those that don’t….but those that don’t should get out of the way of those of us that do. Whatever I do will be an active means of ‘doing’.

So I had to alter plans for STUDIO JIIMAAN’s physical space….due to COVID-19 I have down sized on those original plans….streamlining things as it were….keeping it simple. STUDIO JIIMAAN has actually always been more than just a physical space or entity….it is more than just a vague dream too. Its final form will be both amazing and interesting….at least that it is my hope….a place that people will want to come and create in.

I am working on a project called IMPEL (Indigenous Music Producing Empowered Lives)….and hope to be able to provide basic recording studios to communities….plus basic training to use such equipment….so that various communities can share their stories….their music….create podcasts….interview Elders and Knowledge Keepers and Traditional Teachers so they can share their knowledge and stories….even provide ways to develop language programs.

I will also be working with others like Make Music Matter to help heal others in harmony….including in Indigenous communities.

I have a home studio, a desktop setup to be used strictly for the music side of things….this will provide me with more power and flexibility to record….to mix….and even master. As well as make such processes even that much easier.

I have continued to read and study….and learn….and dream….all I can while I have the available time. Part of my interest these days is creating a way to best work with remote Indigenous communities….taking some of the same best practices and technology used in online live streaming and adapting it for use with such communities….cutting down on cost….yet providing the best of all available. Hopefully, especially during these crazy COVID-19 times, this will let opportunity to continue to find a way to work together with Indigenous artists and communities….in a way to all get in the same canoe and paddle forward….keeping the open side up….and the pointed end forward.

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