"The Tuning Fire" video, filmed by Whidden in 1998, features one song sung by the "Dene Warriors" from Lac Brochet, Manitoba. Although they have learned from hearing the elders it is not surprising that they describe their music style as different; the young people all speak English as well as the Athapascan language; they travel widely in the South; and they have regular contact with the mass media. For example, there are two local shops in a population of 700 which rent video cassettes of latest films.

The Song

The origin of the song is unknown, but the occasions for performance are memorable events such as New Year, Christmas, Easter celebrations and perhaps when special guests come to the community. Before beginning the songs thanks is given to the creator in Dene, and the drumming begins immediately.

Most songs are sung with syllables, although a few words may be included. This song has no words: one elder said, "They have no words, they are like the fiddle songs".

The song has enormous rhythmic energy built around a driving pulse of strong beats set up by the drum. Each strong beat is introduced by a lighter drumstroke and followed by the buzz of the snare set in motion by the drumstroke. You will find too, that the tune, built on European tonality, is readily sung and memorable. The constant repetition of the highly organized melodic-rhythmic patterns is ended by the lead singer with a strongly accented beat on the drum.