By Lola Augustine Brown
For more than 50 years, Buffy Sainte-Marie has written songs so full of heart and so full of intention that they’re often a call for us to all do better. Her latest release, Medicine Songs, due out Nov. 10, is a compilation of her activist songs—protest songs and songs of hope—plus two new releases. The Polaris Prize winner wants to inspire change, at a time when the world needs it most.
Though some of these songs relate to conflicts and issues of the past, they remain relevant. On her website, Sainte-Marie says, “What troubles people today are still the same damn issues from 30-40-50 years ago: war, oppression, inequity, violence, rankism of all kinds, the pecking order, bullying, racketeering, and systemic greed.” Describing the album as “a collection of front-line songs about unity and resistance,” she says that she intends it “to be like medicine, to be of some help or encouragement, to maybe do some good.”
One of the album‘s new songs, “You Got to Run (Sprit of the Wind),” is a collaboration with fellow Polaris Prize winner Tanya Tagaq, whose Inuit throat singing provides a powerful chorus. The other new work is “The War Racket,” a poem, now set to music, that she read at a 2008 anti-war rally in Washington, DC. The older songs, many re-recorded, include “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” “Now That the Buffalo’s Gone,” and the classic “Universal Soldier.” The album is Sainte-Marie’s 18th in her long career as a musician and Canadian icon.
Want to see Sainte-Marie perform live? She’s touring Ontario in support of the album in the coming weeks (a November 19 show in Sherwood Park, AB, is sold out), with stops in Markham, Brantford, Oakville, Mississauga, and Burlington, with more dates to be announced.