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Sunday, 28 August 2011

Buffy Sainte-Marie Shares Her Journey

After years of being out of the spotlight, Buffy Sainte-Marie is suddenly everywhere.

Starting with her new album last fall – the first in a dozen years – a successful tour with a new, all-aboriginal band, a sweep at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, another Juno and, just last month, appearances at the Olympics and a Governor General's Performing Arts Award, Sainte-Marie is hard to avoid these days.

With inductions into halls of fame, onto our Walk of Fame, lifetime achievement awards and the Order of Canada on her CV, the 69-year-old remains firmly embraced by a country richer for her decades of creativity. All this, even though she's lived on a goat farm in Kauai, Hawaii, for 43 years.

Speaking Monday evening as part of the Unique Lives & Experiences lecture series, Sainte-Marie will share highlights from a life that has taken her from a Saskatchewan reservation to New York's Greenwich Village in the heady '60s and a 1982 Oscar for "Up Where We Belong."

"It's a long flight to Toronto, but I'm coming," she says in a telephone interview from home. She discovered the Kauai property four days after arriving for a concert in the mid-'60s.

"I was a young singer with too much money. I had been travelling so much and I was too famous for my own good," she explains. Her instinct led her to the isolated property, where she's lived since and currently has 27 goats, two horses, a bunch of chickens and a cat. Her 92-year-old mother lives next door, so she keeps her trips short.

Orphaned in Saskatchewan, adopted by a part-Micmac woman and raised in Massachusetts –where she acquired a university degree in education and Oriental philosophy, then a PhD in fine arts – Sainte-Marie returned to the Prairies for a while, but chose Hawaii after nearly missing performances due to snowstorms.

With a home studio and everything she needs to create around her, she is constantly working. "If you don't see me, I'm at my busiest," she says often.

Sainte-Marie began experimenting with electronic music in the '60s, which eventually led to movie scoring and, early on, the use of computers. "I had gotten interested in the fact that there were machines that could store, remember, manipulate, change and build music. As a creative person, I thought this was thrilling," she says. When Mac computers came out, her digital art flourished.

Sainte-Marie has been writing songs since she was 3, but engaged in all sorts of other pursuits as well.

Her early outspokenness about native conflicts like Wounded Knee and Pine Ridge got her blacklisted by the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations and effectively banned from the airwaves, something broadcasters admitted to her in the 1980s.

With her radio career silenced, she turned to television's Sesame Street from 1979 to1983, educating a generation about aboriginal culture.

She continues to educate students about native American culture through the Cradleboard Teaching Project, a curriculum she developed and offers free to teachers at www.cradleboard.org.

With 18 studio albums to her credit, Sainte-Marie dodges attempts to label her style.

"From the very first album, it's been pop and blues, native American themes, peace and just stuff that is fun to dance to," she says. "Nothing holds me back, I'm always writing and recording in my home studio. I write everything down and sometimes I find something that I wrote today will go with something I wrote five months ago (or) 15 years ago. I'm an artist who does a whole lot of things and every now and then I make a record.

"Creativity has meant so much to me," she adds. "Creatures, the Creator, the Creation and creativity itself are what my life is about; it makes me happy, keeps me going."
Source: www.thestar.com - Barbara Turnbull


4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed and respected her work since the 1970's when I became aware of her! Bunny from Kansas

Baruch said...

One of the greatest thrills of my broadcasting career was speaking with Buffy in 2009. You can hear the interview at http://paradigms.bz episode#19.

Anonymous said...

I was an adopted First Nations girl from Saskatchewan in the '70s (into a white family) I saw Buffy singing on TV once back then and she became someone whom I looked up to. She was the only First Nations person I knew then. You could say she was my first 'hero'. ~ awmh

Numu lady...... said...

Played her tape over and over.....love Piney wood hills....Soldier boy.....anything by her.....she is not afraid to speak out......someone has to have courage!

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