Five days after the music video for “Best of Me” was uploaded to the Council of Yukon First Nations’ Facebook page, it had more views than there are people in the Yukon.
“Did you know it had 38,000 views?” Assembly of First Nations Yukon Regional Chief Kluane Adamek asked the group of Selkirk First Nation youth who wrote the song and recorded the video.
The kids smiled shyly as a full house cheered them at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre on April 18 during a red carpet event Adamek was hosting.
That evening, CYFN screened three music videos made by 23 Yukon youth aged eight to 18.
In addition to “Best of Me,” there was “Gateway” from the Liard First Nation and “Growing Young” from Whitehorse.
The youth involved wrote the songs and recorded the videos with the help of N’we Jinan, a Montreal-based non-profit that travels across North America helping First Nations youth to write and record music that expresses their personal experience.
CYFN brought N’we Jinan founders David Hodges and Joshua Iserhoff to the Yukon as part of a mental wellness initiative for youth.
Hodges said he and Iserhoff visited the Yukon in late March and early April.
They spent four days in each community. During that time, they got to know the kids, then worked with them on lyrics, recording, and storyboarding and shooting videos.
“We come into the community and meet the kids and the first couple hours are based on conversations to get them more familiar with the point, because there is a point, right? And we just want them to understand what that is,” said Hodges on the phone with the News.
He said it’s not even about making an amazing song, or a flashy video, necessarily. It’s about stepping out of your shell and stepping up.
That was the case for Teya Kocsis, 16, one of the Whitehorse youth involved.
Kocsis had never done anything like this before, but ended up coming up with the title for “Growing Young.”
Kocsis said a friend mentioned the project a while ago, and the two decided to get involved.
“We were like ‘OK we’ll try it out.’ It was just me and (my friend) at first and then after we got everybody, all of our friends, to join up and it turned out pretty cool actually,” said Kocsis.
“We hated it,” Kocsis said, laughing. “It’s so hard doing all that, it was so frustrating, but in the end it turned out really cool … and now we have a chance to go down to Van and go do more music stuff down there and meet more bigger people.”
The Yukon youth travelled to Vancouver on April 19 for the launch of an album comprised of songs N’we Jinan has facilitated for 170 First Nations youth from the Yukon, B.C., Saskatchewan and Ontario.
Koscic said each of the youth in the Whitehorse group got to write their own lyrics, all of which were incorporated into the song, and all of them gave feedback on where the video should be shot.
The videos feature sweeping drone shots of the communities, and images of the youth singing in front of local landmarks such as the signpost forest in Watson Lake, the SS Klondike in Whitehorse, or mountainscapes in Pelly.
Some of the lyrics are dark, but messages of hope and strength are woven in.
“I’ve been drowning in these thoughts/too many broken memories/there’s a line that we walk/I know there’s a remedy,” begins “Growing Young.” “The darker the past the more broken the sun/we’re gonna make this path using some hope and some love.”
“Connected to my family/I’ll never be apart/there’s beauty on the land and a feather in my heart,” says “Best of Me.”
That strength is what Grand Chief Peter Johnston focussed on as he addressed the audience at KDCC.
He said First Nations youth are stronger than ever, and the Yukon will see the results of that strength for generations to come.
“It’s been written that those who have the youth have the future and Together Today for our Children Tomorrow is the basis of that,” he said, referencing the cornerstone document Yukon First Nations used to negotiating land claims in 1973. “If we give our opportunities back to our youth to not only be prosperous and successful, let alone be creative and have an inspiration that’s built on who they are, success is going to naturally happen.”
Premier Sandy Silver echoed Johnston’s appreciation for the youth sharing their “courage, for (their) creativity and for (their) music.”
He said the screening wasn’t the first time he’d heard the songs. He said after a legislature sitting, everyone went up to his office to watch the videos.
“It was funny, with ‘Growing Young,’ there was a bunch of old-assed politicians all crying in my office, watching this video. Listening to the song and then watching the video from Selkirk, and Watson Lake. It was absolutely amazing,” he said.
“The first song that I ever wrote in my band in Grade 9 sucked compared to this stuff. It’s unbelievable how talented these young people are.”
The videos can be found on CYFN’s Facebook page, and on N’we Jinan’s Youtube channel.
Contact Amy Kenny at firstname.lastname@example.org