Live the Life that is Meant for Me

by Why The Caged Bird Sings Project

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Why the Caged Bird Sings is a participatory and community-engaged, five-dau 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's--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.


Verse 1:
listen to the drum and the power in the beat
you never know where life is taking you

this is where it stops
and this is where it starts
live the life that is meant for me

Verse 2:
hoping for better days, praying for better ways
I hope my kids are going to live a good life


Verse 3:
having honour and respect
will help these storm clouds fade away
I'll be forgiven for the things I've done


Verse 4:
grandma told me a family is strong when we stay together
not going to be the same as it was before
(spoken: I thought I had it made)


I wanna be free and live a good life
make change, leave the negative behind
because I am a champion
I need to leave a legacy
stay away from crime and doing time

Spoken word:
regaining tradition / headed on a mission / looking for completion /
take my family fishing / singing a petition / want that definition /
this ain't no competition / teaching four directions / this is for protection /
love is the affection / to keep our reputation / as a First Nation!

Verse 5:
people of the earth, stand strong with one another
keep your head up, my sisters and my brothers


live the life that is meant for me
live the life that is meant for me


released October 8, 2016
Collaboratively composed and men's voices recorded live, April 2016 at Prince Albert Correctional Centre (PACC).
Lyrics by: Drew Ballantyne, Mitchelle Ballantyne, Larry Bird, Cory Halkett, Joshua Johnson, Randall Lemaigre, Keith William Martell, Robert pachapis Favel, Alfred Sanderson
Music by: Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Gregory Hoskins, Joseph Naytowhow, Mark Schmidt
• lead vocals: Keith William Martell • group vocals: all lyricists • chanting, flute & spoken word: Joseph Naytowhow • hand drums, backing vocals; • Cheryl L’Hirondelle • acoustic & slide guitar: Gregory Hoskins • bass, synth, keys, drums & percussion + additional guitar: Mark Schmidt

Co-produced and arranged by Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Miyoh Music; & Mark Schmidt, Northern Town Music Productions • live onsite voices recorded by Cheryl L’Hirondelle • GH guitar tracks recorded by Gregory Hoskins, Midnight Works • Additional recording + ALL mixing & programming by Mark Schmidt • Mastered by Ron Skinner, Heading North Mastering Studio

Project partners:
Judy McNaugton, Northern Artistic Director, Common Weal Community Arts, Alfred Sanderson, Cultural Coordinator, Prince Albert Correctional Centre & kiy collective

Project funders:
Canada Council for the Arts, Saskatchewan Arts Board, SaskCulture & Sask Lotteries



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