By Tanyss Knowles
It was one o’clock in the morning as we all threw our arms over our heads to create giant shadows of ourselves against the rocks on Crow Mountain. This was the first time any of us had been in the Arctic Circle so close to summer solstice and we were marvelling at the endless sunshine and beautiful landscape of Old Crow in the summer.
Old Crow was the last stop on a community tour with the audio-visual collective, Skookum Sound System. Skookum Sound System is an innovative group of artists that mash up electronic beats, video clips, traditional songs, and modern lyrics. When you see them perform, which I got to see many times that week, you just know that they are cool! The experience is visually stimulating, fun for dancing, and true to their heritage. Not only were they fantastic performers, but they were awesome people who were excited to share their art and skills with youth everywhere we travelled.
The tour was organized as a collaborative project between BYTE, the Yukon Film Society, Northern Cultural Expressions Society, and the Adaka Cultural Festival. The four multi-disciplinary artists in Skookum Sound System travelled to the Yukon from Vancouver to play concerts and deliver workshops to youth in Whitehorse, Haines Junction, Dawson City, and Old Crow.
The workshops were fun, interactive, and creative. They started with Csetkwe, the group’s singer, drumming and singing traditional songs. This was perfect for setting the tone of the workshop and showed respect for the foundations of the group’s music. After, the youth moved around to four distinct stations that sported different multi-media equipment. Deano, a Heiltsuk carver and talented DJ, carted his turntable all the way up from Vancouver to teach youth how to cut, mix, and scratch. D’Arcy, a New Yorker with Australian aboriginal and Irish heritage, taught the youth to develop their own beats and play around with different sounds that contribute to the texture of collaborative music. Bracken, a VJ from the Wuikinuxv and Klahoose nations, has lots of experience with digital media performance and installation. He showed the youth how to experiment with film-clips to match them up with the music and create a visual experience. Csetkwe, the only female in the group and a beautiful singer from the Okanagan and Shuswap nations, facilitated a song-writing and vocal recording workshop giving youth the experience of recording their own voices. In Whitehorse, the workshops spanned two days and gave the participants enough time to create their own song which was performed at the Adaka festival.
Skookum Sound System’s workshop were a great opportunity for Yukon youth to meet interesting artists and develop unique skills. In each community we visited we were met with enthusiastic youth and wonderful Yukon hospitality. In Haines Junction, we got to take a break from the workshop to watch youth and adults perform traditional dances outside of the cultural center with the beautiful backdrop of the St Elias Mountains. In Dawson City, creative community members came out to the demo concert and shared their experiences and art with us. In Old Crow, we got to participate in all the festivities and competitions of Canada Day – we even won some!
On our last night of the trip on top of Crow Mountain we all marveled at the energy that it had taken to push through those ten days of workshops and performances. We were so grateful to the sunshine and amazing people who made the trip a success. We threw up our arms again and made even bigger shadows!