We asked Moe Clark to take us inside the recording sessions of Grand Chief Salamoo Cook Is Coming to Town! Moe Clark is a multidisciplinary Métis artist, spoken word poet, educator, artistic producer, public speaker, and activist. Following the success of her debut and sophomore albums (Within and Circle of She), she has performed on national and international stages and collaborated with artists from around the world. Photo: Nora Nathoo What is your favourite song from Grand Chief Salamoo Cook Is Coming to Town? My favourite song is “Kita Skee Eenow.” It’s a song about the earth and the land. The title means “our land” in the collective and inclusive sense of the words. I also just appreciate that these songs are being sung by rabbits. Rabbits are very special in terms of the notions of collectivity, community and family, being part of the land, and connecting with the land. Being able to sing to and about the land in the Cree language is really important. That’s really the basis of a lot of the other song work that I do as well: Finding ways to connect and be able to speak to the land and different relatives, animals, and beings in the language because the language is the land. It’s sort of like returning the gift of language back to its point of origin, which is land. So I feel like “Kita Skee Eenow” is really beautiful in that it acknowledges and honours that relationship. That really resonates with me. “Peeyak, Neesoo, Nistoo,” is also a neat counting song, especially for kids. When did you first meet Tomson Highway? What was it like to work with him on this project? I originally met Tomson Highway in Haiti, of all places. We were there a few years ago for an Indigenous Nights gathering, so I actually got to perform alongside him and his keyboard in a Haitian cafe one of the nights that we were there. That was my first introduction to the humour, curiosity, and playfulness behind Tomson’s approach to language and music. Tomson was there while we recorded, and he brought a really playful and generous presence. He cracked jokes and told us when we did a good job. That’s Tomson’s vibe. He’s five years old and 85 years old all at once. I think that’s what I appreciate about him and his approach to things. He’s such a wise person, but his wisdom doesn’t come across as intimidating. One of the motivations for Tomson Highway to write Grand Chief Salamoo Cook was language preservation. Did that motivate your involvement as well? I don’t like the word “preservation” because it suggests the language is not alive or a resilient, generative, and resurgent thing. I prefer “language resurgence.” I think that I approach language as a process of revitalization. In that way, including the voice, song, and body and engaging the next generation is a way to keep the language alive. But not just keep it alive: it’s a way to celebrate the language, play, explore, and be curious through the storybook and oral tradition. That’s why I think the storytelling narration is really important. The songs are simple and easy to sing, but because of Tomson’s training and background in classical music, they’re songs that adults might enjoy listening to as well. There’s an instrumentation and jazz quality to them that I feel like they’re really made for an intergenerational audience. Were you familiar with Cree before recording the songs? I’ve been learning nēhiyawēwin, which is how we say Plains Cree in the Plains Cree language. It’s another dialect of Cree that I started learning in 2013, sort of as a gateway towards learning Michif, but I haven’t quite successfully learned Michif yet. I’m still working on nēhiyawēwin because, needless to say, it’s a long journey. I approached learning nēhiyawēwin in collaboration and intimate relations with elders and knowledge keepers like Joseph Naytowhow and Cheryl L'Hirondelle. We began learning it on the land through song creation processes. Those processes were about having conversations, engaging elders, doing ceremony, walking, being, drumming, and visiting the land outside our home territories. Through creating songs, we install these experiences into something that can be remembered, sung, and shared. So when I connected with Tomson’s work, it felt like an extension of a process I’ve been doing for a while. There are a lot of similarities between Plains Cree and Woods Cree, which Tomson writes in because they’re both dialects of Cree. While some things are different, many phonetics and sounds are similar. Though I can’t say I’ve ever tried to sing in Cree with a rabbit voice! Tomson Highway has said that “Cree is the funniest language.” What are your thoughts on that? Oh, I think there’s a lot of humour in it for sure. And I think Crees are just some of the funniest people. If you are ever learning Cree, there’s not going to be a dry eye in the room by the time you finish because the laughter just sort of feeds itself. What are you working on now? On September 30th, I’ll be performing at the Aga Khan in Toronto in collaboration with a Moroccan musician and visual artists. Next winter, in late February, I’ll be doing a children’s theater dance performance with another musician and sound artist. It’s an intergenerational theater piece called Because of the Mud, and it looks at what’s happening in the world in terms of environmental collapse and global warming. But it does it all through the voices and animation of aspen trees and two stones. Don’t miss the chance to see Moe Clark on October 1 in the musical performance of Grand Chief Salamoo Cook Is Coming to Town at Kids POP in Montreal! Find the event details here. Once upon a magical time, a rabbit named Weeskits hurried home to Kisoos—a town known as the Earth’s belly button—to deliver some thrilling news: Grand Chief Salamoo Cook is coming to town to host a contest! The prize? A year’s supply of all-healing waaskee-choos juice! Would Weeskits be able to win the juice and rid his brother’s wide of the dreadful manchoos? Find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, Shop Local (Canada), Indigo, Edelweiss, and Goodreads. TK Subscribe to our monthly newsletter to stay informed about our new releases and events and for a chance to win our subscriber giveaway. To order books for your library or bookstore, please contact Hornblower Books/University of Toronto Press (Canada, United States) and MMS/BookSource (United Kingdom). For additional information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.