Cape Breton fiddler Morgan Toney tuning up for debut album

·3 min read

SYDNEY — Morgan Toney, the Mi’kmaq fiddler, is gearing up for his debut album. The 21-year old likes to blend the sounds of his fiddle with Mi’kmaq songs like the Mi’kmaq honour song and the Ko’jua. And he hopes the unique sounds can draw people in.

“I know the Mi’kmaq nation was going to love it and play it and play it, but I was curious to see what a non-Indigenous audience was going think and so far, they love the song,” said Toney.

His song has been featured on the radio and by other news outlets and the feedback has been positive.

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Toney considers both We’koqma’q and Wagmatcook First Nations his hometowns and takes a lot of pride in his Mi’kmaq culture. Toney wanted a way to display that culture through song and was inspired by Experience DRUM! which blends Indigenous, Black, Celtic and Acadian music to tell the story of Nova Scotia. He hopes the album can do the same for Unama’ki.

Toney says the album will be six to eight songs and will incorporate other sounds like guitar, drums, harp and banjo sounds. The project is still in development and Toney hopes to cover the album's costs, $7,000, though a Go Fund Me page he set up with producer Keith Mullins.

“Since the first time I stepped up on stage, people have asked me, 'Do you have a CD out? Where can I buy your music?’” said Toney.

“Now I’m listening and because of Keith’s vision, we’re making it possible.”

Mullins sees a lot of potential in Toney and says he’s hard-working, humble and dedicated. The 42-year-old has played music professionally since he was 15 years old and was intrigued the first time, he heard Toney play. He found the blended sounds striking.

“I never heard someone do that before, but it made so much sense,” said Mullins.

He's been around fiddle music since his grandfather, Bernie Ley, and Lee Cremo studied the music together. Mullins thinks Toney’s style has plenty of appeal because Mi’kmaq communities love the fiddle and it’s an easy way for non-Indigenous people to learn about Mi’kmaq culture.

Mullins has built up connections in the industry and figured an emerging artist like Toney needed all the help they could get during the pandemic.

“It’s extremely difficult for new artists to get started because there's no real systems of support set up for touring gigs,” said Mullins.

He explained tours are great places for emerging artists to make connections in the industry and to make a little money. Mullins said Toney is off to a great start having performed at the Celtic Colours earlier this month, but he still wanted to support him. He’s been showing Toney how to apply for grants and the other supports in the province.

The pair was recently in Eskasoni First Nation shooting the music video to Ko’jua and they have plans to shoot another music video for “M’sit No’kma,” (all my relations) a song dedicated to the Mi’kmaq fishers in Saulnierville, NS.

Toney isn’t quite sure what show he’ll play next, but he does know music will always be a part of his journey.

“I just know that the fiddle is my pilot and I’m putting all of my trust in the fiddle to take me to my next destination,” said Toney.

Oscar Baker III, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cape Breton Post