Mike Bern delivers messages of gratitude, inclusion and hardship on his debut solo EP Waponahkew — showcasing today on Tinnitist.
Meaning ‘Person of the Dawn,’ Waponahkew finds Bern — an award-winning singer-songwriter from Tobique First Nation, NB — paying heartfelt homage to his ancestors while honours the suffering and stories of residential school survivors, including those in his own family.
Along with his signature mix of raspy rock vocals and traditional folk melodies, Bern peppers in a hint of Southern Gospel. Influenced by the the likes of Chris Otepka, Frankie Miller, and Ben Schneider, Bern’s music exudes a purity and pain throughout its soundscape. Nowhere is this more notable than the album’s second song Apatapasiq.
“Wolastoqey language is sung ‘Apatapasiq Wasisok’… Children come home,” Bern explains. “The song is about the experience my Aunt and Uncles went through in the Shubenacadie Residential School. I remember a story my uncle told me once: They were always thirsty when they went to bed and the nuns would never give them anything to drink.” To solve it as best they could, the kids would “keep one stall clean in the bathroom and take turns dipping their socks in the toilet for a drink. “I want the listener to experience the heartache and pain these children suffered. Being away from loved ones and forced to take on a new world and lifestyle … This song is dedicated to my family, and all the Residential School Survivors.”
Previously, Bern has sung in award-winning bands Kickin Krotch and District Avenue, issued the Indigenous Music Countdown chart-climber First Mother, and opened for Seaway, The Trews, One Bad Son, The Motorleague and more. Additionally, District Avenue’s music video for the song Revival was featured at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.