Kashtin – Ishkuess

Okay, this pretty and delicate song sounds like a ’70s ballad in Billy Joel territory that feels like it should build into an ’80s heavy metal ballad-and thankfully doesn’t! It’s from 1991. And the band are of the Innu people, of northern Québec, Canada. Plus, they are singing in their traditional language, Innu-aiman.

Kasthtin are considered to be the most successful First Nations (the proper term in Canada for “Indian”) musical group.

The song seems like a basic love song; the title meaning ‘girl.’ But Kashtin means tornado!

The folk rock band was active in the 1980s, and through to the 1990s, a time in Canada in which First Nations were becoming more active at expressing their political demands, which included reparation for the many past wrongs of colonialism, and a fresh start with ‘self government’ of their own peoples. Attempts at constitutional change to decisively deal with such matters failed in the 1990s. Smaller scale efforts with treaties and land claims continue in some Canadian provinces, and progress is slow.

A contemporary reviewed here is Susan Aglukark.


Midnight Oil – Blue Sky Mine

With the Keystone Pipeline in the US and the Northern Gateway/Enbridge Pipeline in Canada, both making many headlines in both countries, let’s turn back to Aussie political rockers Midnight Oil.

Protest songs about mines are common folk tune subjects, going back at least to Woody Guthrie.

This 1990 song is actually about asbestos mining. Asbestos is cancer-causing, and it rankles many that it is still exported in Canada. There is even a town in the province of Quebec named Asbestos, where is also located one of the world’s largest asbestos mines. Political debate frequently comes down to banning the extrication and exportation of this blue substance, but the trade off of foregoing the economic value of it has typically trumped such a decision.

The balance between jobs and health, or jobs and the environment, or jobs and safety or… and so on… is a routine political challenge.