Born in a snow bank on the Manitoba/Nunavut border to a family of nomadic caribou hunters, Cree playwright, pianist and musician Tomson Highway has been called one of the most important Canadians in history (Maclean’s Magazine). Presented by Indigenous Contemporary Scene, Songs in the Key of Cree is a compilation of his work and a cabaret with Tomson himself at the piano, accompanied by extraordinary Peruvian-Canadian singer Patricia Cano and jazz saxophonist Marcus Ali. Here for the month of August, The Fountain caught up with Tomson about the show, and his plans for August.
TF: You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, how exciting?
I am very excited to be coming to your festival; have heard so much about it over the years.
TF: Songs in the Key of Cree certainly sounds interesting, what is the premise?
How many people in the world have ever heard a North American Indigenous language sung or spoken?
Well, now they will, in the form of cabaret, that is to say, some very, very cool music. The language is called Cree, the most spoken of the almost-100 that exist in Canada today. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Chicoutimi, Quebec, Ottawa…that’s all Cree. And there’s more, much, much more…
TF: And what drove the project, where did your influences lie?
What drove me to write this show? My sincere desire to have my mother tongue preserved for posterity.
TF: Have you been to the Fringe before, is there anything you are keen to see whilst in Edinburgh?
My plans? See at least a few shows. Never been in the Fringe. What do I plan to see? The Indigenous Contemporary Scene shows, the people, the city, the country-side, the sheep!