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Musician takes the road less travelled

Adam Johnson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 15/06) - For decades, Pat Braden has brought smooth, rich sounds to Yellowknife's music scene, both as a backing musician and a solo artist. Now, he's looking at things a little differently.
NNSL Photo/graphic

Long-time Yellowknife musician Pat Braden weaves a song and a story on his Chapman stick at an open mike in Javaroma during the first NorthWords Writers Festival last summer. He is looking towards the future, and the storytelling aspect of his work. - NNSL file photo

"I'm just following the obvious," he says between sips of coffee at Javaroma.

Braden is a hard guy to peg down - physically, that is. His work as a sound technician, currently with the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline's Joint Review Panel, takes him all over the North. So when he has the chance, he talks, tells stories, and opens up about the colour and history of the North as few people can, all with a rapid-fire urgency - like it could all disappear at any moment.

In a way, this is the crux of his new direction, as Braden makes the transition from musician to storyteller.

In 2003, Braden released From the Fire, an album of music and stories, stretching back to his days of weaving bedtime tales for his young children. Unsure of how to promote the album, NACC executive director Ben Nind offered the solution, "dragging me, sometimes kicking and screaming, to storytelling festivals," he says.

Braden performed at Yellowknife's first Festival of Stories in 2005, and at September's Performance Creation Canada in Whitehorse, which Braden said he felt was his real introduction into storytelling and performance art.

While playing his song Calling Archie (off his new CD, Now and Then), a song about watching legendary Yellowknifer Archie Loutitt perform when he was eight years-old, Braden knew he was on to something.

"I took elements of true experience and used it as an introduction to the song, instead of the usual singer/songwriter fare."

Musically, he focused on atmospheric tones and effects on his signature 10-string Chapman stick ("I can paint with this thing," is how he puts it.)

"The reaction I got was amazing," he says. "I thought, I should go with the obvious here."

Since then, Braden has been focusing his energies on a complete show featuring storytelling, songs, and performance that honours the history of North, something near and dear to Braden, who has lived in Yellowknife since the early 1960s.

"We don't honour the past here," Braden says. "We tear it down."

Of course, this isn't all Braden has on the go. In recent weeks, he has put out three CDs: Listen to Your Heart and Debut - reissues of cassette tape releases from the 90s - and a new CD, Now and Then, which features live staples such as Calling Archie and Beautiful Boy.

"The main crux is that it gets out there," he says. "I just want to make these works accessible."

With that work out in the open, Braden hopes to take his show to storytelling festivals around the country, once it's ready to go.

"It feels like an opportunity here," he says. "I want to make sure that I'm ready."