During one of his first experiences in a ceremonial sweat-lodge in 2014, Indigenous jazz trumpeter Chuck Copenace heard a simple Ojibway melody that got stuck in his head. He did some research and learned of its original creator, Neil Hall from Sagkeeng, and received encouragement from an elder to use it in his current single “Creator” – available now – from his forthcoming album Oshki Manitou (Jayward Artist Group/The Orchard.)
Originally called “The Creator Helper Song,” it’s a piece of music meant to heal and encourage letting go. “I really loved how simple the melody is, but how it flows. All that you need is right there – it’s just one melody with one drum,” Copenace muses in a video about the making of the song.
“And it’s a structure that’s… finished,” he continues. “With Western music, there’s all these layers – well, it needs drums and it needs bass – but these songs don’t need anything else and they have a purpose, to help people and to heal people.”
It was a transformative experience for Copenace, both musically and personally. “Whatever happened in the lodge – the focus, darkness, pain, the heat – I was able to start singing that ceremonial music on my own,” he says. “From then on, all my compositions seemed to come from those melodies and that place.”
Oshki Manitou, out September 22, is a decidedly personal musical expression for the 45-year-old former social worker, a way to share his story of recovery and his spiritual awakening. On it, he fuses contemporary interpretations of sweat-lodge melodies with jazz and elements of dance, and electronica.
“When I met Chuck three years ago at the Indspire Awards, I knew immediately that I had just met a very special person and an extremely talented musician,” says Keely Kemp, Founder of CultureCap, Copenace’s management. “I wanted to help bring his gifts to the world and I’m thrilled that today we are releasing the first single from his upcoming album Oshki Manitou.”
“We are honoured to have Chuck Copenace as a Jayward distributed artist for his debut full-length release as a solo artist,” says Jayward’s Jill Snell. “Chuck’s story is compelling and the innovative merging of his jazz trumpet background with ceremonial Ojibway melodies creates pretty stunning music! We are excited to see Chuck’s song ‘Creator’ coming to music platforms on June 23rd, on the heels of Indigenous People’s Day in Canada.”
Music has been a healing force in Copenace’s life, starting with when he picked up a trumpet in Grade 7. Since 2015, he’s been leading his own band, performing around the world, and collaborated with Tom Wilson and iskwē.
“I’m committed to sharing my story to help heal and offer support to people, and I want to introduce young people to jazz, but I also want to bring Indigenous musicians together. And I think my music can be a platform to further that mission.”
Chuck performed at the Winnipeg Jazz Festival on June 21 to a rousing congratulations from the crowd. Upcoming shows include: July 1 – Canada Day at Assiniboine Park, Winnipeg, MB and August 11 – 13 – Live From The Rock Folk Festival, Red Rock, ON. For future dates, please watch www.chuckcopenace.com
“Creator” is available now.