Jeremy Dutcher, a classically trained composer and opera singer who blends early 20th century recordings in the Wolastoqey language into his music, will be touring five NWT communities starting Thursday.

Dutcher has quickly risen to fame after winning the 2018 Polaris Music Prize with his album Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa. Executive director of the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre Marie Coderre says Dutcher represents what it is to be part of the ‘Indigenous renaissance’ happening in the Canadian music scene.

“Jeremy does a really good job of blending arts and what he believes in,” she says. He is part of a generation of Indigenous people who are vocal advocates for their rights and culture Coderre adds.

“He is strongly rooted in his culture and he has a foot in modernity, so it is very interesting to see how he integrates both influences into his music.”

Dutcher integrates wax cylinder recordings from the Wolastoq First Nation from the early 1900s into his music. The work of delving into songs and a language which had been suppressed and much of it lost is crucial Dutcher states.

“I’m doing this work as there are only about a hundred Wolastoqey speakers left. It’s crucial that we’re using our language because, if you lose the language, you’re losing an entire distinct way of experiencing the world.”

Schools in the communities will also get a visit from Dutcher. Coderre says this is part of an outreach effort by NACC since 2012.

“We go there to show them ‘hey, it’s possible to become a full time artist…You have options, and follow your dreams – it’s the most important.”

Dutcher will perform in Norman Wells January 31st, Inuvik February 2nd, Fort Smith February 5th, Fort Simpson February 7th and Hay River February 9th. Special rates for families and seniors are available.