Why I Sing

Joan Henry at the U.N.

I sing because I have to.

Not from a place of needing to; more like that’s my nature. My family tells me that from really young I sang everything, that you knew my thoughts and feelings by what you could hear if you sneaked up on me from behind. I don’t remember doing that, particularly… because I think it was that integral to me. I remember that my Auntie Ali in BC was like that too— my auntie, my mum, both my grandmothers, they sang and talked to everything. “If you can’t say it, my darling, sing it,”my Grandma Kathleen would say.

And it didn’t just go one way— everything sang and talked to them, too. Responded. They were listening all the time, listening to the Earth, to the Ocean, to plants, pebbles, animals and everything around us as they went through their day. They weren’t just sitting still doing nothing, either; there was a part of their awareness that was accessible to the song in all things, to the beauty of all things, to the power and the movement of all things.

“If you can’t say it, my darling, sing it,” my Grandma Kathleen would say…

That was natural to them, so it was natural to me, to have an innate understanding that song moves things, makes things happen.

And that’s the way we’re taught.

For me it is best expressed in the northwest Way of Cia:wen, that everything has a song, and from the moment you become aware of that song, from the moment that song begins to emerge from within you, you are worked with until it comes out. Clearly. Then it is your responsibility to carry that song and to sing it wherever it is called for, because it is our understanding of the world that if the songs stop being sung, the world falls apart.

Concert at the Blue Deer Center 2011

You could say that because of my nature, the way I’m tuned, that it’s my responsibility from the Creator to sing, to move with that gift, to hold up my part of the Earth. And there are layers and layers to that, how we sing to help Mother Earth into balance and how the songs help us return to beauty and to balance…

That truth, that reality kept awake in me, I pass on not only to my son, but to the kids I work with every day, anywhere I go— the generations who will hold our Mother Earth safe when we are gone.

Hiyadidasdi — Hear me…