Tomson Highway Q&A

Much-decorated Cree playwright, pianist and singer Tomson Highway, widely regarded as one of Canada’s greatest artists, takes up residence in CanadaHub with Songs in the Key of Cree. We asked him a few questions about the evolution of the work

Feature | 01 Aug 2019
  • Tomson Highway

What inspired you to create Songs In The Key Of Cree?
The beauty and the humour of my mother tongue inspired me to write the show; I think it deserves to be heard by the whole world.

What are the themes which run through the show?
The theme of the show is love; love is touched on a lot within the course of the show. Political? No. Educational? No, not really. It is, in the end, about entertainment, first and foremost – it will make people laugh, it will make people cry – but entertainment with a very strong social conscience. The show does not preach. It gives its message of joy and hope by opening hearts, by lifting spirits. And they will, indeed, be opened. And lifted.

The show is described as 'a retrospective cabaret' and features yourself at the piano, the singer Patricia Cano and the Jazz Saxophonist Marcus Ali. Do you regard music as a kind of a universal language? To what extent do you think it can help people focus on what unites them rather than their differences?
Yes, I very much regard music as a universal language, the only one that is understood by all countries and all races on Earth. The beauty of music is what can unite people and make them forget their differences, if only momentarily.

Why should people at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe come see Songs In the Key of Cree?
People should come and see the show to see a Cree Indian piano player, with the training of a concert pianist, play the piano... like a demon. And not ‘Indian music’ as they would think we still play and sing but very modern cabaret-style music modelled, in many ways, after the songs of such ‘mainstream’ songwriters as Cole Porter and Kurt Weill, with, of course, the lyrics in Cree. They will never have heard anything like it.

What about the show do you think might resonate with Scottish audiences?
The sheer beauty of the show, the power of the performers, the singer and saxophonist especially, will resonate, and resonate strongly, with audiences.

Songs in the Key of Cree, 31 Jul-18 Aug (not 5, 12), 7pm, £11 (£9 concessions, £36 family ticket)