Voyageur, The Six String Nation Guitar
Throwback Thursday – Five years ago on this very day (well the very day that Jan 22nd occurred on back in 2010) I was living at the corner of Dowling Ave and Queen St W in Parkdale, Toronto. Only a few weeks into my first kick at the drug-recovery process, I was accessing quite a few supports and services and also volunteering at P.A.R.C. which happened to be on the opposite corner from where I lived. One of my absolutely biggest honours and favourite memories of Parkdale was opening the show with a poem when my then partner Camden Blues and his bassist Ken McDonald joined Del Barber other musicians at Mitzi’s Sister (now just, The Sister) playing the Six String Nation Guitar, ‘Voyageur’ in a community fundraiser for:
“a new housing facility adjacent to PARC called Edmond Place, named for Edmond Yu, a resident of the former rooming house who was shot dead by police on a Toronto streetcar while having a schizophrenic episode. His death brought new focus to homeless people with psychiatric issues and new relationships between police and the mental health community.” (Inside Toronto)
Voyageur, the Six String Nation Guitar “is about shared identity and the idea that a shared identity doesn’t mean a homogenous identity, it just means that lots of people can buy into one thing from their own perspective.”
“What makes this neighbourhood really special is that so many different people share this space and share this identity and the guitar is really about that in so many ways,” said the guitar’s creator Jowi Taylor, who has lived just around the corner from PARC for 17 years. “That’s not to say it’s not a neighbourhood with some challenges but part of what makes it special is that everyone in this neighbourhood contributes to its unique and vibrant character – from the chefs to the eclectic art and clothing. Everyone from bank managers to gallery owners to public service workers to the folks you see on the street every day are committed to this neighbourhood and it shows in all kinds of ways.”
Parkdale musicians Ken Whitely and Mike Ford who hosted PARC’s house band at the time, also ran an incredibly well attended daytime event that I remember dancing and jamming at. The guitar itself was on display and handed around, a marvel to behold – made from 64 pieces of bone, metal, wood, stone and fabric that represent cultural cornerstones collected in every province and territory. From aboriginal artifacts to geological gems and modern marvels the guitar’s creator Jowi Taylor has assembled an instrument that not only produces music but connection. It is the resonant wood of this guitar that resonates with me most but containing Haida Gwaii Golden-Spruce, Saskatchewan Grain Elevator, Wood from the Bluenose and Beaver Bush Plane, Nova Scotia’s Pier 21 and Toronto’s Massey Hall, a multitude of hockey sticks it’s hard to pick just one most memorable piece. I think for me it would have to be Nancy Greene’s Skis but that’s just cause I’m a ski fanatic!