Jowi Taylor is touring across Canada promoting a work of art he has created to be a Canadian icon. It is a work of art meant to represent our country and all of its stories. Made up of select pieces of history that have been forged together to compose one breathtaking, unique and functional instrument of unity, it is the Six String Nation Guitar, which will be coming to the Miners' Hall this Friday night.
For over ten years, Taylor has been the host of Global Village, on CBC radio. Inspired by the Quebec referendum on sovereignty, Taylor began the Six String Nation project in 1995. His goal: to invent a symbol to unite the nation without involving any of the usual stereotypical identities. He started with researching and fundraising, receiving innumerable amounts of support from individuals and communities across the nation. Although the collecting of materials and official construction of the guitar was completed within three years, the entire process took over eleven years to finish. It wasn't until Canada's 139th birthday on July 1st, 2006 that the guitar made its debut. That day, it was played during performances by Canadian artists on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
In February, 2008, the guitar was officially given the nickname Voyageur at a press conference in Winnipeg, MB. The name was suggested by Lt. Col. Susan Beharriell of the Canadian Armed Forces who attended the event. The name fits, considering the purpose of the Voyageur is to travel from sea to sea and through the hands of musicians and citizens across the nation. Taylor's focus is to unite Canadians in celebration of its diversity as a country.
This is shown in the physical make up the Voyageur: it contains sixty-seven different pieces all with significant meaning. Rather than focusing on one history, each part of the instrument represents a unique story or element that is distinctly Canadian.
Taylor first conceived the idea for the guitar with luthier George Rizsanyi in mind. Rizsanyi had built a guitar made entirely out of wood from his property, rejecting the more commonly used exotic woods. This gave Taylor the idea to build a guitar with pieces collected from all across Canada. Taylor approached Rizsanyi and over the next decade the Voyageur came to life in Rizsanyi's workshop near Pinehurst, Nova Scotia. He built most of the guitar by hand with the assistance of his students and shop staff. Rizsanyi ssembled everything but the inlay on the fret board, which was completed by Sara Nasr. As powerful as it was to assemble the guitar, there was a personal touch for Rizsanyi: an inside strut created from a piece of Pier 21, the dock where Rizsanyi's family entered Canada.
The guitar itself contains not only wood, but also stone, bone and metal. There is something from every province and territory in Canada. The fretboard is adorned with bits of history such as a drop of gold from Maurice “Rocket” Richard's 1955-56 Stanley Cup ring, caribou antler carved by a young Inuit artist, and a piece of the worlds oldest rock from the North West Territories. The pick guard, shaped like a Canadian maple leaf, is Paul Henderson`s hockey stick from 1927.
Rossland`s own ski legend, Nancy Greene, is also involved. A piece from the Olympic gold medalist's wooden ski, which originally adorned the ski lodge at Red Mountain, became a part of the instrument. With the help of its owner's son, Pierre Trudeau`s paddle also gave a piece to the Voyageur. The back and sides are composed from the old schoolroom of Louis Riel. The collaboration of sixty-four significant pieces make up the actual guitar and another four are incorporated into the strap and case.
Perhaps most impressive is the face of the guitar. Adding a spiritual element, it is made with a slab from the 300-year old majestic Golden Spruce. The tree is extremely sacred to the Haida Gwaii people and after months of communication Taylor was given permission to take the only piece that has ever been cut from it.
The Six String Nation has been touring for the past three years to festivals, schools, concerts and events all across Canada. Wherever the guitar is, people are invited to have a free portrait taken with the guitar by photographer Doug Nicholson. The photos are distributed to people via e-mail, and have been collected into a book, Six String Nation.
Jowi Taylor, along with the Voyageur, will be in Rossland speaking at the Miners Hall on Friday, September 25th. Tickets will be available at the door.