There are few better ways to kick off a new year than with a night out to the Townshend Theatre for another show from Tour de Fort.
Ringing in the New Year on Friday, January 6, 2023, is Amanda Rheaume, an Ottawa-based musician who identifies as a citizen of the Metis Nation, as well as 2SLGBTQ+, who will bring her singer-songwriter style and Americana leanings to Fort Frances for a rousing night of song and story.
Born and raised in Ottawa, Rheaume said she got her start playing the cities many bars and pubs that make up the city’s local music scene.
“In terms of doing this professionally, I started off by playing bars around town, doing cover songs and just cutting my teeth that way, hosting open mics and things like that,” Rheamue recalled in a phone call with the Times.
“I was always writing my own songs, but I’d say the first kind of big show was getting to play Ottawa Blues Fest, and from there I just started getting higher profile gigs and playing more of my own songs, and things just kind of kept rolling.”
Rheaume soon found herself touring not only Canada, but Europe as well, and since those early, heady days, she has released five albums and done “a lot of awesome things” over her career so far. Rheaume was nominated for a Juno Award in 2013, and has been nominated for Canadian Folk Music Awards multiple times, winning the award for Aboriginal Songwriter of the Year in 2014.
Her most recent album, titled “The Spaces in Between” was released in May of 2022, and the album features 13 tracks that evoke the sounds and stories of the Metis Nation, including spoken interludes from Metis leader and activist Tony Belcourt that detail the struggles the Metis people have faced in Canada and Ontario through their history. Rheaume said the new songs for the album began after a Zoom interview she had with Belcourt that were eventually used to make up the interlude segments, as well as other conversations she had with friends and family.
“It wasn’t with the intention of writing songs,” she explained.
“I just wanted to talk and visit and see what people had to say. After that, it was really kind of the beginning of writing songs for the record, which began in 2020 but also early 2021. With the pandemic, it took a minute to know when we could go into the studio, but it was June or July of 2021 I started working with Hill Kourkoutis, who is a Juno winning, incredible artist who was our engineer, and we put this record together in a studio in Toronto with some of my greatest friends.”
The songs included on the album, according to Rheaume, talk about belonging and identity and the difficulties of being of mixed ancestry, with the interludes from Belcourt helping to frame and contextualize those concepts and songs that build up the whole listening experience. Not only a musician, Rheaume has also involved herself in a number of Indigenous-led or focused initiatives to help promote and amplify Indigenous voices who have otherwise been ignored or underserved. Among those efforts, Rheaume co-heads music label Ishkōdé Records alongside fellow artist Shoshona Kish, is involved with the International Indigenous Music Summit as its operations manager, and is a member of the National Indigenous Music Organization’s advisory council. Taken together, this work, alongside the messages in her music and advocacy, reveal the determination Rheaume has to fight to have Indigenous artists heard and appropriately represented in the music scene in Canada and beyond.
“A part of all the other work I’m doing is just really trying to amplify Indigenous voices and get the music out there, because due to systemic racism and colonization and all that stuff, Indigenous artists are not a part of the main conversation, still,” she said.
“For me, incorporating my own story, my family’s story, some of the story of the Metis Nation in broad strokes, it feels critical. I think I really feel like Metis people and their unique history – not everyone has the exact same story – but the histories of the Metis Nation across the homeland is wildly misunderstood, unknown. It feels really important to me, and a real honour, to get to talk about and sing about it all.”
Ken Kellar is a reporter who was born and raised in Fort Frances. After spending several years in various parts of the country for school and work, Ken returned home to join the Fort Frances Times in 2019. He has an Advanced Diploma in Print & Broadcast Journalism from Humber College in Toronto, Ontario, and has contributed to the Humber Etcetera, Humber Daily News and CityNews Toronto (formerly 680News).
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