Traditional songs are top iTunes choice for some

  • Jul. 24, 2009 9:00 a.m.

by Judy McKinley-There’s an old saying that everything old can be new again. And that adage can’t get better than the official release of the Songs of Haida Gwaii Archival Anthology, put out by the Haida Gwaii Singers Society.The launch was held last Thursday in the Greeting House at the Kaay Centre. Hosted by one of the five Haida Gwaii singers, Reg Davidson, it celebrated the culmination of a 20-year project. As the story goes, now-Haida Nation president Guujaaw took note of archival music recordings housed in the museum, and felt the recordings needed attention. Terri-Lynn Williams Davidson was hired for the project, and she was acknowledged Thursday night as the key force that brought the project to fruition.The Archival Anthology is made up of songs recorded from the north and south of Haida Gwaii, dating from as early as 1913. They have been digitized to improve their sound quality, and the set includes translations, images and background cultural information.As Mr. Davidson noted, along with speakers Nathalie Macfarlane and Jason Alsop of the museum and the Heritage Centre, at the time the project was started, not many people knew Haida songs anymore, a legacy of banned celebrations and the toll taken by the smallpox decimation. Now, they said, children know these songs, and as Mr. Alsop said, “Haida Songs are on the top-played songs on my i-tunes list,” a testament to their lasting appeal. While many island groups and singers have contributed to this renewal, with performances and composition, the Archival Anthology is a unique record of historical songs that are now assured of preservation and continuance.The gathering of about 40 people was treated to a slide show of images from the period covered by the Archival Anthology, singing, and a performance featuring Xiila Guujaaw and others, dramatically seeking through a bentwood box to reveal the treasure of the boxed CD sets inside. Speakers took time to acknowledge the original singers and others who gave their time and knowledge so this collection was possible. A collectors box brings together the Archival Anthology and the Haida Gwaii Singers Anthology. The cedar box features designs by Robert Davidson, another of the five-member group, and is a limited edition. Copies and further information are available at the Heritage Centre or through