Donita Large Honours The Ancestors In Her Bones

The Alberta blues singer-songwriter celebrates the power of heritage in her new cut.

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Donita Large draws strength from the past in her new single The Ancestors In My Bones — showcasing today on Tinnitist.

“When in circle and we pray, an Elder will say, ‘Pray in your own way. All beliefs are respected in the circle,’ ” says the Indigenous blues singer-songwriter from Alberta’s Saddle Lake First Nation. “I want my listeners to know that this prayer is shared with the same intention.”

The song begins with full, reverberating drum beats — the kind you can feel down in your bones — and a Cree prayer recited by Large’s father Frank. A rattle begins its pebbly, rhythmic shake, and then rich guitar; Large’s voice is soulful and crystal clear, calling on the power of those who came before her.

It’s a message that struck Large almost like lightning as she was heading home many years ago from a voice workshop in Banff. A phrase had stuck with her: “I feel the ancestors in my bones,” something she had shared with the group during one of the sessions. She recalls immediately pulling over to the side of the road to scribble down the lyrics.

For years, she sang the song accompanied by a hand drum or a rattle, as a means to honour the stories of her Cree and Métis ancestors. Still, she felt it needed more for its recording. That came from award-winning producer Chris Birkett — who produced no less than five of singer-songwriter and activist Buffy Sainte-Marie’s albums. He presented Large with a master of Ancestors in My Bones less than two months later. “I had tears streaming down my face when I heard it for the first time,” she shares. “All I could say was, ‘nailed it!’ ”

Ancestors in My Bones follows her debut single Going To Walk That Line. Released this past summer and produced by Cindy Paul, the song soared to the top of the Indigenous Music Countdown. Check out Ancestors In My Bones above and below, and find out more about Donita Large at her website, Facebook and Instagram.