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New CD features historic recordings

By Jeff Green

Rare archival recordings spanning 64 years, 10 Mi’kmaw communities and four provinces have gotten a new lease on life thanks to the efforts of Memorial University’s Research Centre for the Study of Music, Media and Place (MMaP).

For the first time, 24 tracks of traditional Mi’kmaw songs, hymns, anthems and fiddle tunes are featured on the new CD Welta’q: It sounds good: historic recordings of the Mi’kmaq.

The disc includes recordings from Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec from 1944-2008.

The album is part of the MMaP’s Back on Track archival series which has been making rare and otherwise inaccessible music available to the general public and educators since 2005.

The project was produced by ethnomusicologist Dr. Janice Esther Tulk, a Memorial PhD graduate who currently is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) post-doctoral fellow at Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia.

The album includes recordings from institutions across the country and field recordings from private research collections. As well, it includes a 60-page booklet written by Dr. Tulk that includes textual and musical transcriptions, translations of Mi’kmaw texts, extensive notes, photographs, and discography, and artwork by Mi’kmaw artist Jerry Evans.

“The diversity of musical genres included on this CD challenges any narrowly conceived notion of what Mi’kmaw music is,” said Dr. Tulk. “Further, the inclusion of the story of Mi’kmwesu – a flute-playing trickster in Mi’kmaw culture – demonstrates the inclusiveness of the Mi’kmaw concept for music. Welta’q means “it sounds good” and can extend beyond music to other aspects of expressive culture, such as story-telling performances.

“While many of the songs on this CD will be recognizable to community members, and some even to the broader population, many of these performances were not widely known during the consultation process,” added Dr. Tulk. “By releasing them to the public, we hope to preserve and celebrate Mi’kmaw culture, while also providing historic source material to inspire future generations of Mi’kmaq.”

Dr. Beverley Diamond, director of MMaP and producer of the archival series, said the release of the CD helps preserve historic Mi’kmaw recordings, making them available to everybody.

“Dr. Tulk has done a superb job of selecting and documenting the archival material on this CD,” she said. “The range of musical idioms and stories is an important record of the interactions and intercultural connections that have been important to Mi’kmaq people in Atlantic Canada.”

Funded by Memorial University’s Leslie Harris Centre for Regional Policy and Development, the CD was produced with the approval of Mi’kmaw Ethics Watch at Cape Breton University. The recordings were digitized, edited and mastered by Spencer Crewe of Memorial’s MMaP.

To order copies of Welta’q: It sounds good: historic recordings of the Mi’kmaq, visit