Shauit: Apu Peikussiakᵘ

They’re Playing Our Song

Listening Post 189. Song can be a pathway to survival for threatened languages. Over the past generation the 10,000 speakers of Innu in Québec and Labrador have seen a creative surge in new music. The folk-rock duo Kashtin gained prominence in their community and in broader Canadian society, especially after their songs were featured on the TV series Due South and later on soundtrack compilations. It was at a music festival in Maliotenam, an Innu First Nations reserve on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, that an adolescent Shauit—son of an Innu mother and Acadian-French father—first saw Kashtin perform and, as he put it, “fell in love with Innu music and culture.” He had just moved to his mother’s community and didn’t speak the language, but resolved to learn it and contribute to its renaissance. Today a singer-songwriter, Shauit uses traditional chant, folk, country, rock and soul tropes, but he believes reggae in particular lends itself to the Innu sound. On Apu peikussiakᵘ  (We Are Not Alone), his first full-length album, he channels personal experience into 10 songs, focusing on spirituality, family, coexistence and the environment. Most touching is Tshin an nitauassim (You Are My Child), addressing teen depression and suicide in Indigenous populations (video 1). Identity anchors the affirmative Eshku inniu innu (The Innu Lives, video 2); and Nutshimam (My Chief, video 3), asking how to best work for the common good. The musician’s life has universal drawbacks: Nanitam tshititan nishtukuanit (Always in My Thoughts) is a traveling performer’s lament to his love back home (video 4). One of three album tracks sung mostly in French, Bienvenue nuitsheuakan (Welcome, My Friend) is an imagined greeting from Indigenous Canadians to the first European settlers. Historically, the initial salutation was probably spoken; generations later, Shauit eloquently demonstrates that singing might be a more auspicious icebreaker. (Pasa Musik)

Note: At the 2018 Indigenous Music Awards, Shauit’s Apu peikussiakᵘ won the prize for Best Inuit, Indigenous Language or Francophone Album.

 

Tshin an nitauassim/You Are My Child
Music and lyrics: Shauit
(from the Innu lyrics)
You are my child!
You, who breathes youth/You, who wants to take to your life
Just tell me what is going on with you
I am saddened/That you want to leave so soon
What can I say/To help you feel better?
What happened/For you to be so overwhelmed?
Tell me what your dark thoughts are
I feel a great fright/At the thought of losing you forever

I know I’m not always there/Near you
Sometimes I regret bitterly/Not seeing you grow up well

You are my child!
There is something that makes you suffer/There is something blocking you
You, who doesn’t love yourself/Who does not see all your worth
Something must have happened/For the darkness to inhabit your heart
Believe in God/He will give you his light
You are remarkable/In everything that you accomplish
Another thing I want to tell you: You still have a long path to go
Don’t ever think/That we don’t appreciate you
Just the opposite, you are very much loved

 

Eshku inniu innu/The Innu Lives
Music & lyrics: Shauit
When I remember where I come from/I feel so happy
Even though I’m far away/I never forget I come from Uashat-Maliotenam
I was born to live/I was born to be Innu
It’s important to preserve my roots

Our territory is big, our life is beautiful
Our children are beautiful, our grandmothers have great knowledge
God is truly good, God gives us love/Our language is beautiful, our story is true
Our traditions and our culture are important
When the Innu is in trouble he relies on God to give him strength
The Innu have been insulted and diminished/Yes, the Innu suffers but he is still standing
Innu is not respected, we don’t know the Innu language/The Innu is not heard, but he can speak
Yes, the government tried to kill the Innu/But he is still alive, he’s still alive
We thank God for still being here on Earth

 

Nutshimam/My Chief
Music & lyrics: Shauit
I am happy to meet you, my chief
I’ve been waiting a long time to see you again
Tell me how to walk with rectitude in my heart
I’ve been waiting a long time to see you, to talk to you again
Can you tell me what I can do to help my neighbors advance?
I’m happy to meet you, Chief
Very happy to meet you

 

Nanitam tshititan nishtikuanit/You Are Always in My Thoughts
(feat. Sly Mestokosho)
Music & lyrics: Shauit
You are always in my thoughts/I think of you, even when I’m far away
I’m really happy, delighted, when I am with you/I rarely have the chance to talk to you
I really would like t
o have you near me/I regret that you are left behind
You don’t know how many times I’ve thought of you/Every day I remember what we’ve done together
How could I forget you, you are always in my thoughts/I’ll tell you something, but surely you already know
I am yours, and you own my heart/How could I ever leave you, you’re always in my head
It doesn’t matter what I’m doing/Before going to sleep, or when I’m playing a song
I think about you so much, you’re always on my mind
It’s that I love you, if you knew/I loved you, I love you and I will always love you
And I envy you because I tell you, I have never been told what I’m telling you
I’m also afraid that you’ll leave me/I know it’s hard for you to be alone
I would understand if you were angry/But I’ll never be away for long

 

 


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