The Heritage Flame

As former Olympian and Edmontonian native Doreen Ryan finishes raising her arms in spiritual triumph, Native Edmontonian singing group Asani raise their voices in triumphant spirit.  
In school, we had to learn both the English and French versions of O Canada, no different than two sides of a cereal box.  The bi-lingually legislated part of our heritage is omni present.  But, Canada is not a bi-lingual country, and we share a far deeper heritage beyond that of our colonial ancestry.  Edmonton especially has a rich history involving our Native heritage.  So like the crisp night air stealing breath, Asani’s rendition of O Canada was both refreshing and overwhelming.  
Asani are described as a “contemporary Women’s trio from Edmonton, who [carry] with them the traditional influences of First Nations and Metis music accompanied by drums and rattles.  Their songs resonate with their own blend of traditional vocals infused with the sounds of jazz, folk and blues.”  They, thankfully, were on stage during the pinnacle moment of tonight’s torch relay. 

As the crowd grew close, and all generations of Edmontonains cheered on the torch’s arrival, the crowd became one and the singing of the National Anthem was announced.  Just like we’ve all been taught, everyone straightened and prepared to belt out a familiar rendition.  But then something unexpected happened.  Debbie Houle began a low vocal rhythm, lightly rattled her drum, and everyone gave pause.  Before anyone knew what to expect, Sarah Pocklington charged ahead with a vibrant melody and Sherryl Sewepagham carried everyone’s ears with a swooping and bold harmony.  The words of the anthem were gone, replaced instead by a comforting feeling, like finding something you never knew was lost.  It perfectly articulated the symbolic nature of the torch, the enduring human spirit of the games, and the deep connection Albertan’s and Canadian’s share with one another.    


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