Kashtin

Popular Montagnais duo - the singer-songwriters and guitarists Florent Vollant (b Maliotenam, near Sept Îles, Que, 10 Aug 1959) and Claude McKenzie (b Schefferville, Que, 11 Mar 1967). Kashtin means 'tornado' in the Montagnais' Innu aimun language. McKenzie and Vollant began singing together in 1984 and performed at the Innu Nikamu festival at Maliotenam and for other Native communitives along the Lower North Shore of the St. Lawrence River.

At the initiative of the Montreal composer and producer Guy Trépanier they made the album Kashtin (1989, Trans-Canada PPFL-2009), which sold more than 200,000 copies internationally and included the Quebec hits 'E Uassiuian' (also known as 'Mon enfance' or 'My Childhood'), 'Tipatshimun' ('Chanson du diable' or 'Song of the devil'), and 'Tshinanu' ('Nous autres' or 'Ourselves'). The last has been described as an Innu anthem. All are sung in the Innu Aionun language; some have been given French and English titles to facilitate radio and TV (video) introductions. Kashtin received Félix awards in 1990 as best debut and best country-folk album. A second album, Innu (Musicor PPFL-2011, CD and cass), was released in late 1991 and included one song in English, Willie Dunn's 'Son of the Sun'.

Kashtin's songs, in country or contemporary folk styles, are characterized by simple but spirited refrains sung in throaty harmony over vigorous, acoustic guitar rhythms. Accompanied by a small instrumental ensemble, Vollant and MacKenzie have toured widely in Quebec and performed for Canada Day ceremonies on Parliament Hill, Ottawa in 1989, and at Harbourfront, Toronto, in 1990. They made their debut in France in 1989, returning some 15 times by 1991 - eg, for five-day engagements in Paris at the Théâtre de la Ville and La Cigalle, and as part of tours with the Gipsy Kings (to whom they have been compared) and Daniel Lanois. With Lanois they also gave concerts in Belgium and Switzerland. Kashtin made its US debut in 1990 at the New Music Seminar in New York.