The trickster in us

Susanne and I went to see an evening of cabaret with Tomson Highway, a Cree musician, playwright, novelist, and songwriter. It was not a Gershwin medley — these were songs from two musicals he’s written, namely, Rose and The Incredible Adventures of Mary Jane Mosquito. The latter is a children’s play, in case that wasn’t already abundantly clear. We all piled into a small auditorium, about 40 of us, and were subjected to Tomson’s wacky presentation style, which was this entertaining mix of Victor Borge wit and Elton John effete manner. Unfortunately, the music itself was a little on the simplistic side — interesting enough chord progressions but then that was about it. There were times when he would jam during a vamp portion of a song and I could see that he could play really well, but those weren’t things he’d written into the songs. He was joined by a singer, also from the Cree Nation north of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and a sax player from Walla Walla who did a very good job on an instrument that is not anywhere near my favorite. I’m more of a woodwinds and strings fella, but that’s another story. 


Tomson Highway

Tomson Highway



There was a portion of his cabaret where he talked about the Cree’s notion of “the trickster,” a spiritual being with no gender who is like a lightning bolt of divine magic from God. The trickster is behind your laughter, lightening you up from the moment, an ephemeral gift from God. Or in Tomson’s language, he’s bumping your butt. Which made us laugh. Which made Tomson point out that he was bumping our butts again. Which made us laugh again. You can see where this is going. It was a butt-bumping laughfest for a while there.

Another moment of hysteria, when I thought I would just lose it — he remarked that this next song was a good song, because you know, he wrote it. Not to blow his own horn, you know, because he doesn’t play the horn. And don’t think he’s going to blow the piano tonight. Though that might be interesting.

I will point out here that the idiom is “toot” your own horn, not blow it. Perhaps those Cree have their own take on such things. Certainly it made for a funnier story. I did go home humming a few tunes about mosquitoes who take the train to find new friends. Groove Armada it was not, but it was a nice event. And, I suppose, very Wallyworld.

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