The game is six degrees of Canadian history. Take two seemingly unrelated pieces of Canadian culture and connect the dots through various people, places and events to discover how they’re distantly — or maybe not-so-distantly — related. Along the way, we visit the quizzical and curious, the tragic and comic, and everything in between.
Lhasa de Sela, author, singer, songwriter, film director, musical director and painter (born 27 September 1972 in Big Indian, United States; died 1 January 2010, in Montreal, Quebec). A major influence on the world music repertoire, she charmed an entire generation with her charisma and her deep voice, which she deployed in a wide range of languages, dialects and new sonorities. In 1998, her first album, La Llorona, won her the Juno Award for Best Global Album of the Year as well as a Juno nomination for Best New Solo Artist of the Year. In 2004, her album The Living Road was nominated for the Juno for World Music Album of the Year, and in 2006, her video for the song “Con Toda Palabra” was nominated for the Juno for Video of the Year. In 2005, she received the award for Best World Music Artist of the Americas from the BBC.
Quantum Tangle is a performance-based storytelling group from Yellowknife consisting of Inuk-Canadian vocalist Tiffany Ayalik and Anishinaabe-Métis guitarist Greyson (Grey) Gritt. The genre-bending duo’s music is informed by Inuit throat singing, spoken-word storytelling and blues-inspired folk rock. Inspired by their respective Indigenous ancestries, Quantum Tangle’s music explores identity, systemic racism, colonialism, the environment and Indigenous histories. Their album, Tiny Hands (2016), won the 2017 Juno Award for Indigenous Music Album of the Year.
Catherine Ruth MacLellan, singer, songwriter (born 23 April 1980 in Burlington, ON). Catherine MacLellan is a contemporary folk-roots singer-songwriter whose recordings have won multiple East Coast Music Awards, Canadian Folk Music Awards, Music PEI Awards and a Juno Award. She is the daughter of “Snowbird” composer Gene MacLellan.
Leonard Norman Cohen, poet, novelist, singer, songwriter (born 21 September 1934 in Montréal, QC; died 7 November 2016 in Los Angeles, California). Leonard Cohen was one of the most iconic Canadian artists of the 20th century. A sage, mystic, bohemian and romantic, he built an acclaimed body of literary work and a revered career in pop music. In his poetry, novels and music, he constantly probed the human condition, exploring themes of love, loss, death and his commitment to his art. As a poetic and unlikely pop star, his narrow-ranged, gruff voice, which deepened and darkened with age, and his reliance on simple, singsong melodies were complimented by the intense imagery and depth of his lyrics. A Companion of the Order of Canada, he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, the US Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Folk Music Walk of Fame. He also received the Glenn Gould Prize, eight Juno Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and numerous other honours.
Angela Jean Elisabeth Watt, lyric soprano (born 13 November 1915 in Brandon, MB; died 4 June 2017 in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, England). West Coast lyric soprano Ann Watt enjoyed a high profile singing career in Vancouver in the 1940s. She was perhaps best known for her starring roles with Vancouver’s Theatre Under the Stars and for singing on CBC Radio’s wartime broadcasts. She drew praise for her vivacious and charming performances, her rich and lovely lyric soprano voice and her versatile range. She was inducted into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame as a pioneer in 2013.
Os-Ke-Non-Ton (also written Oskenonton, meaning deer in the Mohawk language, also known as “Running Deer”), baritone, actor, spiritual leader (né Louie Deer c. 1888 in Caughnawaga [now Kahnawá:ke], QC; died c. 1955 in Lily Dale, NY). Os-Ke-Non-Ton was a celebrated singer and performer who showcased his culture across the globe. He also worked as a healer at a spiritual centre in Lily Dale until his death.
Idola Saint-Jean, feminist and pioneer in the fight for women’s suffrage (born 19 May 1880 in Montréal, QC; died 6 April 1945 in Montréal). The first woman from Québec to run as a candidate in a federal election, she devoted over 20 years of her life to active efforts to improve women’s legal rights.1
Leonard Cohen is backstage at Hamilton Place, having just performed an epic concert for an ecstatic audience. He's still wearing the hat, and with the double-breasted suit that threatens to engulf his slight frame, the rakish fedora lends him the air of a gangster from a lost age.