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The new single from Mali Obomsawi is one of the most unique and powerful pieces of music we've heard in a while. "Odana" combines traditional Abenaki culture with jazz. It starts off a brass band which is inspired by the marching bands Jesuit priests would bring to reservations. It then evolves into a seventeenth century Abenaki ballad done in free jazz. Obomsawi has crafted a compelling and important song that I'm hardly doing any justice with my description.
Mali Obomsawin explains her new song much better than I can:
"The first song, 'Odana', looks to the reservation community where I’m enrolled. Odana is a Wabanaki word for ‘the village’ – and Odanak, the name of our Abenaki reservation in southern Quebec, means 'at the village.' Writer unknown, this ballad is a homage to this home that our ancestors founded in the late 1600s.
"'Odana' tells the story of those ancestors who fled to modern-day Canada to escape biological warfare and scalp bounties (17th & 18th centuries) issued by the English crown in its colonies. The bounty proclamations, in particular, deterred Abenaki families from returning permanently to their ancestral territories by the end of the 18th century. The lyrics warn Abenakis to “be vigilant” so that the ground remains peaceful and they do not lose their newly founded villages at Odanak and 'Mazipskoik' at the head of Lake Champlain. The lyrics describe 'a great forest extending from the village,' a stolen homeland. Finally, the lyrics thank our forefathers for guarding this place for us and emphasize the importance of this place to the survival of Abenaki people in the face of genocide.”
You can listen to "Odana" below. Sweet Tooth is due out October 28 on Out of Your Head Records, and can be pre-ordered via Bandcamp. For more on Mali Obomsawin, check out the artist's website.
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