Debajehmujig Storytellers launches new recording studio, open to all artists

Lima Jacko and Mike Evin warm up in the Creation Centre’s Green Room before taking to the stage at the celebrations at the new studio. photos by Michael Erskine

MANITOWANING—The Debajehmujig Storytellers Larry E. Lewis Creation Centre is always a hotbed of creative activity, and its well-equipped facility is the envy of theatre companies in much larger communities across Canada. Last week, Debaj secured yet another jewel to its artistic crown with the addition of a state-of-the-art recording studio.

“We are glad it is open for business,” said Debaj artistic director Joe Osawabine. “We hope to have a naming ceremony soon.”

Designed by sound engineer and Debaj stalwart Chris Deforge and funded through a FedNor grant, the facility is “acoustically sound and specifically designed for a quality product with digital modern equipment and methods of recording.”

In addition to its isolation booth, the recording studio features the ability to record live off the floor of the Debaj main staging floor and can provide overdubbing. The Debaj staff are well trained and experienced in sound production and are available to assist with any project.

With digital production facilities close to hand, Debaj can also design CD sleeves and duplication as well.

“Our step into digital media arts is ever-expanding and our new sound recording studio is a necessary complement to our fully-equipped digital animation studio suite,” explained Mr. Deforge. “Our other capabilities include ADR for film, sound design, post production for film and television, radio ads and other possibilities that have yet to be explored,” said Mr. Deforge.

Samantha Brennen sings in the new isolation booth as part of the Debajehmujig recording studio.

“We are really excited about working with JUNO award winning artist Crystal Shawanda and partner Dewayne Strobel,” said Mr. Osawabine. “They work with a lot of Canadian artists up here and it is very expensive to bring them down to Nashville for recording.” Ms. Shawanda is very familiar with the expertise and skill of the Debaj engineers as some of the studio’s most recent projects included special engineering for Ms. Shawanda’s recent blues album ‘The Whole World’s Got the Blues’ and Debaj also shot, edited and produced the music video for ‘Pray Sister’ of the same album.

The Debaj recording studio is open for business for recording artists, corporate clients and can also be hired for on location recording, but perhaps the most exciting aspect of the operation is the ancillary support that Debaj can provide.

“Of course we need to make some money to help keep the doors open, but we can help with that too,” said Mr. Osawabine. “We can assist people in finding the funding for their project as well. We will work with people. We want to make it as accessible as possible to the community.”

While Debaj remains a land-based indigenous theatre company, the recording studio is open to working with any artist. “We just need you to show up with something ready to go,” said Mr. Osawabine. “We want to find people who are passionate about what they are doing.”

An advantage that Debaj has is that their sound engineers are salaried on staff and not an incremental cost in production. “It gives us a lot of flexibility,” notes Mr. Osawabine.

Debaj is also currently working on its visual arts component and is in discussions with renowned Anishinaabe artist Leland Bell. “We would really like to get Leland on board as a guest curator for the gallery and exhibition and have him deliver instruction in the visual arts—stay tuned.”

This summer’s Debajehmujig Storytellers stage production will take place in the Holy Cross Mission ruins in Wikwemikong and will feature the traditional stories of Nanabush—starting near the end of July, probably the Wikwemikong Powwow Weekend.

“And of course we have our Seven Minute Sideshows beginning in July and the Community Heritage Market,” said Mr. Osawabine. “Any artist or artisan can book a table at the market, just give us a call at Debaj.”

As part of the opening festivities for the recording studio, Debaj featured a stage filled with local artists’ performances.