Starr of the show

By Kathy Schaerer

Canada’s cultural collage comes through with strength in Kinnie Starr’s latest album, Tune-Up. In the footsteps of folk artists like Bruce Cockburn and Neil Young, Starr uses a mosaic of styles and sounds that are the essence of Canadian culture, but with a hip-hop twist.

"[Hip-hop is] just the most articulate music out there… it’s the folk music of 2000," says Starr.

Other inßuences of jazz, dub poetry and even native chant are present on this latest album. Starr’s music ranges from "a really beautiful love song," with the mellow and sparsely instrumented Ella Fitzgerald-meets-Bjork-jazz sound of "Warm," to a full folky, hip-hop description of the devastation caused by El Niño in "Miles."

"I think Canada’s about to get its due," says Starr. "And it’s going to continue to get more and more recognized for its cultural output."

Her mix of sounds are born of Starr’s own cultural collage as she is of Metis, Irish, Mohawk, French and Russian descent, and her roots are important to her. She recalls bursting into tears in a native arts store as she listened to a really beautiful prophecy that a native rebellion leader is said to have made.

"My people will sleep for a hundred years and when they wake up it will be through the eyes of art," she states. "There is a lot of art coming out of native people and mixed- blood Indians that is resonating in popular culture, and I think it is going to continue.

"I do feel like I am very much a part of that uprising and… it feels good, it feels strong."

Strength and insight into people is very much a part of Starr’s ideology. One of her more innovative ways of observing human behaviour in the last six years was through chess.

"Wanting to win the game usually deßects my ability… it makes my reasoning more partial rather than wide," Starr says.

She explains that she likes to bait her opponent to see, "if they play vengefully; they’re going to get my piece, but they’re gonna lose."

This ideology parallels recent problems with her former record label Mercury Records. Starr was compelled to terminate her contract when Mercury was absorbed by Island/Def Jam, and problems ensued about conßicting artistic agendas.

"It’s just a terrible, awful, long story," says Starr. "The end of it is, I left and gave them the record [Mending] because I got tired of their bullshit.

"A lot of painters don’t get to hang their favourite painting, why should I give a shit that a record I made doesn’t get to be heard?"

She is now with Violet Inch Records, but Mending will only be released in Japan and the U.K. for the time being pending the funds to buy the rights back.

"Not just in native communities, but with women in general [there’s an] understanding that it’s absolutely necessary to be grounded," an undaunted Starr says, adding that leaving her contract made her "feel closer to the ground."

Starr will be performing at the Night Gallery on June 13.

For music fans who want to hear an intelligent, versatile act with a hard and honest groove, it is a show not to be missed.

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