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about

Why the Caged Bird Sings is a participatory and community-engaged, five-day singing, songwriting & recording workshop that involves small groups of incarcerated women, men or detained your along with their literacy educators and/or cultural programmers in federal prisons, provincial correctional centres and youth detention facilities in the land now known as canada.
The song lyrics created by the participants are strung together to create a narrative, using consensus as a way to create equity so that everyone's voice is heard and validated. The songs are uplifting and positive in theme and are meant to become a repeatable mantra that belongs to all the participants who co-wrote the song--extending out to the greater community--so that everyone can join in. At the root of every song lyric is the use of metaphor. This helps to poetically focus the lyrics both thematically and in how the song is constructed.
The resulting uplifting song is one that does not ignore the struggles or hardships that any of the participants have individually or collectively endured, but instead looks forward to be a useful way of affirming one's future and potential.
The songs are meant to be 'freedom songs--not to be confused with those from the civil rights movement. In Cree language, 'freedom' is akin to having self-control and self-determination, so from a creative point-of-view, it is self-expression, or 'freedom' that these songs lyrically and melodically declare.
Once recorded, mixed and mastered, the songs are released as singles and shared with the co-writers, programs staff and all project partners. Proceeds from sales are shared with all co-writers.
THE PRICE POINT OF THIS SINGLE REFLECTS THE MINIMUM WAGE AN INMATE RECEIVES PER DAY - PLEASE ENJOY & SING ALONG!

lyrics

Can't Break Us

Verse 1:
Smile, accept your situation - you may be locked in a cell
Even if you're locked up, that won't stop you - you'll still rise!
so, take a moment and learn to free your mind
And you will see you can have freedom all the time
you can have freedom all the time

Chorus:
They can love us, they can hate us
But they're never gonna break us
Don't let the little things bring you down.

Verse 2:
Yes, I'm a mess, I'm so different from the rest
But go ahead and put my smile to the test
I love you my fam and my team
I'm going to take my happiness to the extreme
Never give up, your destiny could be your dream
your destiny could be your dream

Bridge:
They can take away my freedom
they can't take away my voice
they can't take away my happiness
that is my choice
that is my choice
that is my choice
that is my choice!

Rap: featuring Bannock Kid

Verse 3:
I can speak with honesty and choose who I wanna be
I can't change my course, it is something I must endorse
No-one knows my past and they won't understand the wrong
They may say I am weak, but I know I'm strong
they may say I am weak, but I know I'm strong

Chorus:
They can love us, they can hate us
But they're never gonna break us
Don't let the little things bring you down
Don't let the little things bring you down

credits

released October 13, 2016
Can't Break Us was collaboratively composed with all youth’s voices recorded live, March 2015 at Paul Dojack Youth Detention Centre, Regina SK.

NOTE: youth participants’ names are aliases

• lead vocals: AWCP • group vocals: all lyricists • freestyle rap: Bannock Kid • hand drums: Cheryl L’Hirondelle • guitars, bass, drum programming, loops: Mark Schmidt.

• Co-produced and arranged by Cheryl L’Hirondelle & Mark Schmidt • live onsite voices recorded by Mark Schmidt + ALL additional recording, mixing & programming by Mark Schmidt
• Mastered by Ron Skinner

Huge gratitude to:
Michelle LaVallee & David Garneau, Curators:
Moving Forward, Never Forgetting - Feb 28 to Apr 19, 2015 (The Mackenzie Art Gallery); Elroy Carrier , Cultural Coordinator, (Paul Dojack Youth Detention Centre).

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