Songs in the Key of Cree is a compilation of Thomson Highways work and a cabaret with Tomson himself at the piano accompanied by extraordinary Peruvian-Canadian singer Patricia Cano and jazz saxophonist Marcus Ali. Patricia Cano also spoke to the Fountain about the Fringe show and her excitement about being in Edinburgh.

TF: You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, how excited are you?  

Off the charts! Exciting festival, beautiful city, fantastic songs to sing and stories to tell, and beautiful languages in which to share them too (Cree, French, English, Spanish), therefore, exciting for sure.

TF: Songs In the Key of Cree certainly sounds interesting, what is the premise?  

It’s a compilation of songs written over the past thirty years by Tomson Highway, Canada’s premier Cree playwright, novelist and composer. They are, as most songs are, about love – different kinds of love (fun, sexy, forbidden, forever love, etc.) – and they are taken from five of his musicals. Setting this cabaret apart from other musical offerings at the Edinburgh Fringe is the Cree language – Cree being the most widely spoken Indigenous language in Canada – which is certainly not something music lovers get to hear everyday! Furthermore, at the root of Tomson Highway’s writing is the idea that animals, rocks and trees have souls equal to the human soul, because in Cree, there is no animate-inanimate distinction between things. In that sense, Tomson Highway’s Songs in the Key of Cree takes flight in pure celebration of all things life and love, tree and rock, wind and water, magical and miraculous.

TF: And what drove the project, where did your influences lie?

My participation in Songs in the Key of Cree is as singer and storyteller. Tomson Highway invited me to sing his songs back in 2001 when I was a sweet young thing fresh out of university, and I have been travelling the world by his side every since, singing his beautiful songs (new works and old) with great joy and gratitude in my heart. As a performer, working with this kind of material is a gift.

TF: What are your plans for the Fringe? Have you been to the Edinburgh Fringe before? Is there anything you are keen to see whilst in Edinburgh? 

Oh my! I have never been to the Edinburgh Fringe and so I am beyond excited to see shows! Thing is, I am a working artist-mom of two boys (7 and 14 months), and I’ve not been free to see much of anything since my second babe was born, and so I am truly and ridiculously excited to see almost any show! My generous and loving parents will be on hand to care for my boys while I work, and so I will be making the most of their help for sure. First, I will do my best to take in the other Canadian offerings at Canada Hub, and go from there.

TF: And what are your future plans beyond the Edinburgh run? 

My hope is that Songs in the Key of Cree will be invited to cabaret festivals across the globe! 

Songs in The Key of Cree will run at CanadaHub (King’s Hall) from 31st July – 18th August at 19:00 (except Mondays), as part of Indigenous Contemporary Scene. Tickets available now via Summerhall.