Reflections on my time in Nova-Scotia: exploring the connection between music, acadian history, and surfing.

For the past six years, I have lived in Halifax, Nova-Scotia. Initially, I was here to complete my english degree at Dalhousie University, and I graduated in 2012. I continued at Dal, studying music, and graduated again in 2015.

The real accomplishments of my time in Nova-Scotia have involved my passions for music and surfing. It is incredible to think that long before itinerant surfers graced it’s shores, Nova-Scotia was home to generations of fisherman and mariners of various kinds who found work in Halifax harbour or other notable ports, like Port Royal, on the banks of the Annapolis Basin. Still more, to imagine french colonies – the Acadians, living along the Nova-Scotian coast, from the tip of the province in Cape-Breton to the furthest reaches of it’s southern shores.

I never would have imagined that surfing in Nova-Scotia would take me to old acadian settlements and colonies, like Grand-Desert just passed the iconic Lawrencetown beach, or other settlements throughout the province. In this respect, surfing has enabled me to develop an appreciation for the land of my ancestors, the Acadians who inhabited our shores. Further, this peculiar and regular interaction with the coast – surfing – has provided both a sense of place and a feeling for the culture and way of life of my ancestors.

If my music tells a story, it is a story of maternal love between a man and his country- his people, and their collective story. It is a story of love between an individual and the place and the people who birthed him. Here, I must acknowledge the profound generosity of my mother, Jolene Richard, without whom, none of my songs would be written. Indeed, one of my first recording projects is a collection of French songs, written principally by mrs. Richard featuring lyrics by some of New-Brunswick most accomplished poets, not to mention a few original compositions of my own. It is truly wonderful that surfing has brought me closer to the land and language, of my people, in both French and English. It has also given me the gift of phenomenal health, and constantly fosters in me feelings of profound gratitude. I often become aware of just how fortunate I am to live in Nova-Scotia, and in Canada, after a surf.

Lately, I have also been working on an English concept album, about life in the post-modern world, and as Robert Kegan so aptly put it “the mental demands of modern life”. I feel that the progression of images from Mariners and settlers exploring the maritime coasts, to post-post-modern individuals surfing along it’s beautiful shores is most descriptive of what characterizes my album: our very modern pre-occupations with time and how we spend it. And, also with deeper concerns about the human need to have a legacy- to be heard and to tell one’s story. The story of surfing the Nova-Scotian coast is also one of discovery, and in this post-modern age, what many are calling a second-enlightenmet, that theme of discovery is as pertinent to us as it was to those individuals who settled here and to those who were already living here.

Finally, and most pertinently, my forthcoming album deals with the need to lives one’s story and have the courage and humility to pursue it completely. I would also add that it is an affirmation of the beauty and importance of family.

Naturally, there are many more questions buried within this material, for history is always coalescing in the present moment. To contemplate one’s present historical and bio/psycho/social moment, is also inevitably to contemplate one’s personal and collective his(her)stories. Thereby, my musical projects are ultimately a form of self-reflection – public and personal, in both French and English.

This English Concept album, which I have named Evangeline in homage to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, is the story of the acadian people. It is also a larger story about humanity. A tale about our struggle with modernity, with the environment and with the psychology of post-modern life. The album begins with the early acadians, and moving through the present moment, arrives at a question about the future. As is commonly said, all children must eventually leave the cradle, and one cannot help but to wonder if mankind will eventually, by choice or obligation, leave the planet and enter the stars?

I am very excited to share both these musical projects, the one predominantly in French, the other in English, as a testament to bilingualism, pluralism and the power of integral philosophy. May peace reign on the earth, and may we lift these linguistic veils of misconception, to discover our profound similarities, and the boundaries that connect us.


Selby Evans

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