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Bringing Canada’s First Peoples’ Musical Performances into the 21st Century

  • Senate House, Room 261 Malet Street London, WC1E United Kingdom (map)

Professor Elaine Keillor (Carleton University)

Prior to 1600, it is estimated that the area now known as Canada had some 300 different cultures occupying that geographical space. With the ravages of disease and other impacts from colonialism, the number of cultures and the languages used was considerably reduced. Still many have retained or are in the process of recovering their musical performance traditions that are intimately connected with all aspects of their daily lives.

In this talk, four different cultures present in Canada from East to West – Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Inuit, and Kwakwa_ka’wakw – will be introduced.  Then a sampling of how persons of these backgrounds mash their musical traditions into presentations for native and non-native audiences at the present time will be given. These include an orchestral powwow, hip-hop with powwow tunes, throat-singing in musical theatre, and the inclusion of traditional dances/music in new creations such as those of Red Sky. 

Elaine Keillor, a Distinguished Research Professor Emerita of Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, remains active as a researcher, a professional musician of keyboards and as a singer.  She has produced numerous publications, including the books John Weinzweig and His Music: The Radical Romantic of Canada (1994), Music in Canada: Capturing Landscape and Diversity (2006), and the Encyclopedia of Native American Music of North America (2013). She has also been the team leader for the production of several websites on Canadian indigenous expressions:,, and

Part of the CMPS/IMR Performance/Research Series.