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Photo of two fiddlers and a pianist rehearsing
Jimmie Fox, Darol Anger and Philip Aaberg rehearsing, 1999

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The Metis Project: When They Awake
A Local Legacy

Rock and roll, hip-hop, jazz and Metis. You know about the first three styles of music, but have you ever heard of Metis music? All these styles have something in common -- they are influenced by other types of music. Metis music comes from a mixture of two cultures -- Native American rhythms and European tunes.

The Metis people are the descendants of European fur traders and Indian women who lived on the Plains in both the United States and Canada. Metis music tells a story. And people can dance to it. The fiddle is the major instrument used in Metis music. Other instruments include the harmonica, the hand drum, the mouth harp (harmonica), and finger instruments such as bones or spoons.

In Helena, Montana, a musical project explores the importance of Metis fiddle music. "When They Awake" is the name of the project, and it is based on a prediction by Canadian Louis Riel, a teacher, writer, leader and hero to the Metis people, who said, "My people will sleep for 100 years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back." It's possible that some of the artists he was thinking of were musicians.

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