New website to showcase great N.W.T. musicians of the 60s and 70s

The history of Northwest Territories musicians of the 1960s and 1970s will soon be showcased in a new website set to launch next week.

Pat Braden is publishing Musicians of the Midnight Sun, an online history website focused on the territory's great musicians of the last 50 years.

"It's a way of recognizing these Northern musicians, many of whom helped me along when I was just a snotty-nosed bass player," Braden said.

"It's also to recognize that time they were living. It was a very dynamic time in music, but also what was happening culturally, economically and politically here in the North."  

Richard Lafferty, a Métis fiddler from Fort Providence, N.W.T., will be the first musician featured on the site. He learned the old time and Métis fiddle songs growing up in Fort Providence and spent time playing with the band the Arctic Ramblers, made up of students who boarded at Akaitcho Hall in Yellowknife.  

Over the next two months or so, Braden will add another musician to the site each week, building up to 10 musicians. He expects there will be three sets of 10 musicians featured over the life of the project.

"These guys are so laid back, they're cool," he said. "There was no rush. They're gracious and encouraging to other musicians — to generations of musicians." 

Rolling out the information for one musician at a time gives each artist "their time in the sun" for a week while also keeping people interested in the project over time, Braden said.

Submitted by Pat Braden / N.W.T. Archives / Akaitcho Hall Collection / N-2000-002-029

Braden's been playing music in the Northwest Territories for 40 years, playing gigs with many of the artists he's showcasing on the website. But even then, he says this project's given him a deeper appreciation of what these musicians were doing.

"It gave me a much deeper understanding of the evolution of that music, of Métis fiddle music and old time fiddle songs," Braden said.

"They're not just talking about the music," he said. "They're talking about the community, they're talking about their uncles they learned from, they're talking about all kinds of different aspects of their environment that influenced their music playing."

Submitted by Pat Braden