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Stl’atl’imx (Lil’wat)

Tzo’kam means “chickadee” and “visitors are coming” in the Stl’atl’imx language. Flora Wallace and her family have sung together at family occasions and community events for many years. After elder Flora Wallace participated in the Aboriginal Women’s Voices gathering (1997) at Banff, Alberta, the family decided to expand their efforts to share the culture. It did not take long for Tzo'kam to hit the stage and start recording. The first major concert by Tzo'kam was at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival in the summer of 1997 opening a stage that featured Buffy Saint Marie and Keith Secola. Besides live performances, Tzo'kam envisioned a CD of Lil'wat music and embarked on getting recording experience. Tzo'kam recorded for the Smithsonian Institution and was featured on the compilation CD Heartbeat 2-more voices of Aboriginal Women. Tzo'kam also recorded a lullaby for Under the Green Corn Moon-Native American Lullabies for Silverwave Records.

Since 1997 Tzo'kam has performed at many festivals and concerts including Folklife in Washington D.C., Full Circle Concert in Calgary, Alberta, Harrison Arts Festival in Harrison Hot Springs, B.C., Harmony Arts Festival in West Vancouver, B.C., and many conferences and gatherings. Recently though Tzo’kam has had to deal with the death of the founder, lead singer, and family matriarch Flora Wallace on January 8th, 2005.

Tzo'kam, under the direction of Russell Wallace, continues to work within the Aboriginal communities and educational communities to teach, share and maintain a tradition that has been kept alive by dedicated elders.

Press - Critical Acclaim

By Alexander Varty in Georgia Straight, 16 December  2004

“While It'em "To Sing" exclusively featured members of the Lil'wat Nation's Wallace clan, led by matriarch Flora, the new effort reaches out to other aboriginal artists: Cree/Métis songwriter Wayne Lavallee and Maori singer Aroha Crowchild both sing on the disc, and Leroy Joe's "Traveling Song" is a jaunty number that would lift the spirits of any cross-country wanderer. Also appearing are members of the Vancouver Ismaili Muslim Youth Choir, who have no trouble integrating themselves into Russell's sumptuous vocal arrangements…”

“…Vocables, as Russell hints, are nonverbal vocal sounds that have no specific meaning. But as Flora Wallace's majestic "Dream Song" makes clear, these supposedly meaningless syllables can pack considerable emotional weight…”

“A similar sense of prayerful concern comes across in Russell's own "I Will See You Again", which grabs the listener's attention with its stark solo introduction before opening up into lush, overdubbed harmonies…”


Tzo’kam is featured on these CDs:

Under a Green Corn Moon - (compilation) Silver Wave Records

Full Circle-Aboriginal Womens’s Voices in Concert (concert CD) Banff Centre Records

Heartbeat 2- More Voices of First Nations Women (compilation) Smithsonian Folkways SF CD 40455

Tzo’kam - It’em (to sing) - Red Planet Records

Tzo’kam  Journeys - Red Planet Records

In Their Own Words

So, what is Salish music? We can look at music as being an extension of the culture. Salish singing and dancing is drawn from the earth because Salish people come from the earth. In the Lil’wat language, the word for aboriginal people is “uxwam’meequa” (sic) which literally means “people of the earth”. This is how we define ourselves and other aboriginal groups.

The creation stories in which humans are created from the earth of the bottom of a very large body of water are very similar in Salish tribes. It is this connection to the earth that the singing and dancing come from. If you have witnessed the dance you would see that the dancers bend their knees and widen their stance. In this position the centre of gravity is lower in the body and balance is not a problem. The same is true for singing. The songs are sung from the chest, the breath is drawn from the ground and the sound is supported by it

Landscape plays an important role in the way songs are composed. On the coast you see mostly water and really have no need to interact with the mountains for sustenance. The songs for Coastal Salish people would be low in key and would not venture very far from the root note.

However, inland you have many mountains and you would choose places to live that are high enough to see any travelers coming and must travel over them to trade or to gather the necessary foods for survival. The Interior Salish songs should then begin high and work their way down in pitch. This may be an over simplification of the music but it is the only way I can describe it as I hear it. But traditional singer and teacher Leroy Joe says something similar, “…to me Lilwat music is right from the land, it is the people, the trees, water, life, it is very spiritual, very powerful, prayers, when I sing sometimes I can feel the ancestors there with me and that’s when I know that our music is very special.”

Repetitions of patterns create a weaving of sorts. Lil’wat people are well known for the baskets that are woven from roots and bark. In these weavings, patterns are created to represent animals and environmental symbols. If we look at the music of a people we must also look at what surrounds them and what other activities and expressions these people participate.

Contact Information & Links

Red Planet Records, P.O. Box 4633 Stn. Terminal, Vancouver, BC V6B  4A1 Phone: 604/444-1100

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