Zoongde`e in studio © Courtesy of Make Music Matter
A new artist collective named Zoongde`e (English phonetic: Zone-da-eh, Anishinaabe for ‘strong heart’) released their debut single “Where is Everyone?”—a raw and powerful folk song.
Zoongde`e was brought together as part of the Culture to Wellness project, a partnership between Aboriginal Legal Services (ALS) and Toronto-based non-profit Make Music Matter (MMM) based on MMM’s Healing in Harmony music therapy model for trauma survivors.
The therapeutic and victim services team at ALS have taken part in a series of workshops and collaborative songwriting sessions, culminating in the creation of the track “Where is Everyone?” They describe the song as ‘a letter to the world,’ a way to shine the light on the tragic and common reality of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
“The fact that the woman in the song disappears is the closest truth to the reality that Indigenous people experience,” explained Quinn Roffey-Antoine, Victims Rights Advocate at ALS and one of the songwriters. “The fact that her family and community cares and remembers her is part of the strength we as Indigenous women demonstrate.”
“The song represents truth,” added Colette McComb, another member of the group. “We are seeking justice here. It represents educating the public. Our song honours the memories of those who we have lost and was done through the guidance of our ancestors.”
For Zoongde`e, the creation of the song was also a way to process their personal experiences. Most of the staff at ALS have endured vicarious trauma through the front-line work that they do, and have endured intergenerational trauma themselves as Indigenous people. The project has provided them a safe space to be vulnerable, to express themselves, and find healing. Ultimately, their aim is to explore new ways of delivering holistic support to the Indigenous people they serve.
Christa Big Canoe, Legal Director at ALS and member of Zoongde`e, feels the project is an opportunity to revitalize the connection between culture, music, and healing—something that’s been disrupted by the violence and harm faced by Indigenous communities.
“In 30 years of Aboriginal Legal Services being an agency, what we know works, what reduces recidivism, what helps people get back on track, what helps put people in better places is a connection to culture and a connection to community,” she explained.
Workshops will continue throughout 2024, offering this new approach to holistic healing to more members of Toronto’s Indigenous population, including ALS clients and partners.
In September 2023, Canadian rockers Billy Talent were invited to visit the artists in studio, learn more about the Culture to Wellness project, and share some musical guidance with the group.
MMM’s Healing in Harmony music therapy model has been clinically proven to help reduce PTSD, anxiety and depression. Through the Culture to Wellness project with ALS, the organizations developed a new culturally-based healing model for Toronto’s Indigenous community. The two-year project is supported by the Government of Canada and will help ALS staff and community partners to explore strategies to help trauma survivors take ownership of their healing journey through the creative process, while integrating Indigenous healing methods.
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