Art Napoleon, a bushman from Canada’s boreal woodlands, is a visionary troubadour whose music bridges cultures by bringing contemporary and traditional world-views face-to-face and creating disarming spaces that are both sacred and irreverent.
Napoleon jokes and sings with a playful swagger but his music taps into something ancient and wise. It’s the sound of fiddles, guitars and harmonicas joining with old hand-drums and spine-tingling vocals in both Cree and English. With contributions from folk music all-stars including Ken Hamm, Calvin Cairns, and co-producer Zak Cohen, Napoleon’s multi-award nominated album Miyoskamin embodies North America’s deepest roots. It is the original “Indian” bush country blues.
Napoleon sings of his rich life in a style that is a poetic and sensuous celebration of the natural world. His music is deep and diverse – faithful to traditional forms while rich in contemporary influences. His Cree songs honour family, the land of his childhood and the things he holds most sacred. His original English songs delve into country, blues, and folk traditions. Good Red Road and Buffalo Heart are inspired by political injustice, while Bushman Blues and Mystics are life-affirming narratives grounded in real-life adventures.
A recognized cultural teacher and faith-keeper, Art has lived many different lives. “I was raised close to the old way, in the woods learning about the land, animals and spirit-world,” Napoleon explains. “As a child I knew things were changing and that I wouldn’t be a great trapper or hunter like my uncles. Instead, I dreamed of making music and putting on amazing shows that would inspire people.” Art has worked as a big game guide, youth worker, life-skill coach, language teacher, curriculum writer, land use consultant, and chief of his community. He has also enjoyed stints as a writer, actor, film-maker and storyteller. Napoleon received a Telefilm award for the children's production Cree for Kids at the Banff Television Festival and has been featured on many radio and TV programs including Basic Black, Zed TV, Dead Dog Cafe, Winnipeg Comedy Festival, CBC Roundup and All Points West.
When not performing, Napoleon can be found speaking at colleges, emceeing conferences, serving on arts boards, and working on educational projects. He hosts episodes of The New Canoe, a nationally broadcast television program and has just completed his first children's CD – a collection of stories, field recordings and songs to help Cree language learners. Now based in Victoria, BC, he still dreams of northern moose-camps, giant huckleberries and mountain streams loaded with trout.