Shannon Thunderbird’s Lost And Found Soars With Sultans Of String

The Ts’msyen Elder & the global musicians sing for residential school victims.

Shannon Thunderbird sings for the victims of residential schools with the help of Sultans Of String in their new single and live video Lost And Found — showcasing today on Tinnitist.

The topical track is the latest release from the Canadian global music group’s Walking Through The Fire album, the most ambitious and important project of their career — a series of collaborations with First Nations, Métis and Inuit artists across Turtle Island. Lost And Found was written by Ts’msyen Elder Thunderbird, who is originally from the Pacific Northwest coast of British Columbia: Gilut’sau Band of the Royal House of Niis’gumiik, Gispudwada (Orca) Clan. The music is arranged and supported by Sultans Of String, and the epic strings of the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.

“On May 27, 2021, the bones of 215 Indigenous children were found in a mass grave on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.,” says Shannon. “I wrote Lost And Found several days later to acknowledge the fact that with tangible evidence Canadians could no longer deny what we have been saying for over a century.”

“The wind raced through the trees,
Dying children on their knees
Where have you gone, I love you,
Please come home to me
Thousands of children’s bones in the ground
Deep reaching pain for so many
Lost to the ravages of evil
Cries unheard for years and years.”

“I am a songwriter, and this one came so fast that I just got up, I grabbed my phone, I threw it on record,” she says. “I sat on the side of the bed and I sang it from beginning to end without stopping. And by this time, I barely got through it. I was in a lot of tears thinking about my grandmother, thinking about my mother, thinking about what happened to me. All of these things that came out of this horror that was done by the churches and the Canadian government.

“I find it immensely difficult sometimes to sing it because I am, along with my sister Kate, who sings the song with me on the album, an intergenerational residential school survivor. It came down through my grandmother to my mother, to me, and we’ve had our challenges. But I’m of an age now where one has a choice. You carry on or you don’t. What would our ancestors want us to do? It is brutal, and it’s real. And the sacrifice of these children, oh goodness. They won’t be forgotten. They can’t be. Innocents lost in the most heinous of ways.”

Growing up, music came to Shannon naturally: “I came out of the womb singing. My mother was an opera singer, and because she was Ts’msyen she was never really able to realise it, because we were talking about colonialist British Columbia. To have somebody in the grand arts who was an Indigenous person was just unheard of, so I was very fortunate. She had the most glorious voice, and I inherited part of it, and she instilled the love of music and singing in me.”

Since releasing their debut album Luna in 2007, Sultans of String have continually strived to make each chart-topping album more original and meaningful than the last. That includes working with an orchestra (2013’s Symphony), teaming with Pakistani sitarist Anwar Khurshid (2015’s Subcontinental Drift) and even crafting a world-music holiday album (2017’s Christmas Caravan). Their ambition and work ethic have garnered them multiple awards and accolades, including three Juno nominations, first place in the International Songwriting Competition, three Canadian Folk Music Awards and countless other honours, plus a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal for McKhool. Their 2020 release Refuge earned Independent Music Awards for Instrumental Song of the Year and World Music Producer of the Year, as well as 2021 CFMA for Producer of the Year for McKhool and John Bailey.

Walking Through The Fire Tour Dates:

May 31 | Midland, Cultural Centre
June 9 | Hamilton Arts Week, Westdale Theatre
June 17 | Waterloo, University of Waterloo
June 21 | Newmarket, Old Town Hall
June 22 | Toronto CD Release, Hugh’s Room
June 23 | Kitchener-Waterloo, Multicultural Festival

Watch the live video for Lost And Found above, listen to Walking Through The Fire HERE, order a CD HERE, sample more from Sultans Of String below, and head over to their website, Twitter and Facebook.


Photo by Kevin Kelly.