MOCASSINS AND MUSIC AS GEOGRAPHICAL ORIGINS OF FIRST NATIONS Writer Brian Wright-McLeod gives an illustrated talk Sunday (April 13), 2 pm. $14. Bata Shoe Museum, 327 Bloor West. 416-979-7799, www.batashoemuseum.ca. Rating: NNNNN
What is the connection between music and shoes?
The music moves the feet.
How does shoe design relate to geography?
The design reflects the origins of that particular nation. Floral patterns tend to come from the northeast – Ojibway, for example. Geometric patterns come from the prairies and the southwest. The Navajo tend to have no design at all.
You host a CKLN radio show of Aboriginal music called Renegade Radio. From your vantage point, is the inclusion of an Aboriginal category at the Junos a triumph or tokenism?
A triumph. You can point to any category – children’s music, reggae – and ask that question. They’re not sales categories; they’re craft categories.
You helped establish the native American music category for the Grammys. What’s the difference between it and the Junos?
I’m proud of the Junos. In the U.S. they lean toward the more traditional music, whether it’s flute players or powwow music. Up here, we get the Whitefish Juniors, Kinnie Starr and Susan Aglukark. Canadian Aboriginal music is much more directly associated with Canadian mainstream culture because it’s on everybody’s mind that we exist.
Do you have a favourite powwow?
I go to some of the smaller ones. The Skydome powwow is commercial. It shows an evolution of how big business in native country has come to represent native culture. You can see that in the mocassin design. You used to be able to identify the dancers by their beadwork. Now everything is all mixed together. They’re all borrowing designs – there are beaded running shoes.
Favourite native recording artist?
Jesse Ed Davis. He grew up doing the powwow circuit in Oklahoma and became one of the pre-eminent session guitarists of the 70s.
Brian Wright-McLeod speaks about the Juno and Grammy aboriginal categories: