To mark Black History Month, we gave SOCAN member Jenny Salgado carte blanche. She’s a Québec-based multi-disciplinary artist of Haitian origin, a singer-songwriter, and screen composer. She was also a pioneer of Québec’s Francophone rap scene as a member of the legendary group Muzion, and accepted our invitation with the militant and poetic writing style for which she’s renowned.

“I have a dream…” 
I am the Dream.

When, during the day, my mom used to scour hotel rooms trashed by European tourists on René-Lévesque
While, her lips tight, she would let the melodies on the radio whisper in each room of her floor
The same whispers, when the night fell, that she would harmonize without profanity while she moistened and gently scrubbed their withered skin
That of our forebears, hidden in hospices and hospitals.
That of the Gran Moun who mumble with their head tilted to the floor… their souls already ascending
Who barely remember anything at all, not even themselves, nor that show which must go on…
But they remember, by heart, all of our songs.

My mother described each of their faces while the sun was rising through their eyes…
Silence, suspension
Never too late, nor too early.

When my grandfather was dying in Fort-Dimanche, while the guardians of the dictatorship were looking one with a dark, glassy stare. . .
On the walls were as many names as there were cross-outs…
Background: the echoes of the Dessalinnienne’s ringing trumpets
While bare chests are lining up, recognizing death,and no longer bother to give a defiant look of hatred. When the night of its release…
Feast and fanfare! Come thunder and rain, celebration!… My grandmother came back home
alone and a widow.

The home…
Buried, too.
All those heavy stones, this monument, those heavy frequencies… All it took was one January 12 for them to evaporate in our history, in History…
The one that silences us. The one that lies to us. Rest, suspension…
There once was a denouement…

When, by the moonlight, my great-grandmother looked out the window of her tiny shack, sat in her rocking chair with just the smoke from her pipe coming out of her mouth…
There, fully ready, between the riches and the niches, in them little boxes, where all the huts of the most mistrustful servants rubbed shoulders
And time observed us, dispassionate, following its own beat
Humming worry free, motionless
Not even a dodgy look
With the assurance of a single impulse, fissureless and fictionless 
Dictating its own score
Leaving us to our own devices, to interpretation

When? But mostly, Who?
Who among those who were inspired before me?
When they dreamt of that future, did they dream of me?
The I in Black History Month…

It’s been more than 20 years now, since I was able to exist as myself before the others, with the others, all the others, I presented myself as a singer-songwriter. Artist.
I told them I wanted to make art and tell my story in the future tense, too.
Let’s stop kidding ourselves: no one here actually lives in the present. As soon as we act, reply, even to harmonize, we are in fact responding to something that has already happened. And as soon as you shut up, you hear what was… since forever.
There are those who dream of the future, breathing out the past, and then there are those who create the future, breathing in the past.

And that, for me, is how I summarize this world I was born into. 
This choice. These words, that music. This voice.
Choosing what I want to say when I respond to silence…
Knowing fully what those dreams are made of, the dreams that breathe out, that rest, hanging from branches endlessly looped towards the roots until their origin is forgotten.
Those dreams that stick to your skin, that get coated with resin, that are resigned to seal the wounds of a small story that pleased.
Knowing fully that there are so many artists that, quite simply, no longer dream…

Photo : Berekyah

I said so much to an 8-year-old child, the other day: 

Really? They can no longer dream? You mean in poor countries? 
In the poor worlds! 
The poor worlds? But isn’t it countries that create worlds? 
Ah! But no, my precious one. Your world is everything that you feel, everything that you create when countries let their walls evaporate and let you roam free when and where you want. It’s like a dream! 
Ahhh! OK… And what do they create, those artists who no longer know how to dream. 
They don’t create, they replicate. They duplicate walls. Walls filled with cross-outs. To fit in small boxes. 
I don’t want to become an artist. I want to be the dream…

February 2023: 

Cold beer, pizza, fritay… all over the world we are waiting for the halftime show where one of the most beautiful women in the world is supposed to sing. A black, pregnant woman who’ll allegedly steal the show during the Super Bowl. In the back of the room, the kids are playing, the scream in an accent I don’t know, totally new and pieced together from a thousand different origins. Time stops. Pure music
My boys big up me; I started the year singing Desjardins’ Les Yankees on TV. Inhabited like a Winter that has never known any boundaries. And the Sun rose. In Creole…

I tell them about this project I’m working on, the story of music in Québec, where I will tell the story of the arrival of jazz’s syncopation, of swing, of improvisation and of hips swaying, sound-wise and body-wise, of the blue notes in the storytelling, the underground freestyles and railroads that have had so much influence on whom we’ve become today! How we sound today! Like the Tam Tam and the Afrobeats of today. How they infiltrate what presents itself as “urban music” and takes centre stage in today’s musique québécoise. It hasn’t been told yet. Archived. Fossilized. Rests, suspensions. . . It’s an honour. A duty. 

In a coupla weeks, I’ll be selecting the winner of the Breakthrough Hip-Hop Artist of the Year. That Hip-Hop that’s no longer sung just by Blacks (everybody raps, all the worlds rap, nowadays!) and no longer talks about Blacks. But it is derived from all the currents, and flaunts the slang used daily by the neighbourhoods where the Blacks that create our future also dream, our literature. . . As many names as there are cross-outs. 

Before embarking on my next soundtrack, which criss-crosses the cinema that tells our story . . . and going to I don’t know which country to represent Québec, I’m finishing, invited as a “model of success,” my tour of schools, where I have learned so much about the future that awaits us! I learn that from those youths who don’t want to become anything at all, who don’t want to be defined in these tiny boxes, not even the artist’s. They only dream about creating themselves as they see fit and become influential where they are. 

I went back through my shole story with them to meet them where they had imagined me. Where they recognize themselves. 

They heard my mother’s mutterings, those melodies that are always with us, My grandmother’s prayers, the soul you cannot disavow

The trumpets of revolt, the power of words, like a gaze propelled beyond the parapets 

The drums of rebellion, the riddim that leads all the sounds that we call, that we assemble, that duplicate the movement of the heart of a single choir beating as one 

The songs of freedom, the raison d’être why this trade, I will learn it until the end of time 

The silence of that 8-year-old artist before she finally said: 

“I’m not just an artist. I’m just the dream.” 

 Believe it or not, music is in the blood. 

Thank you to everyone who dreamt of me before me. 

And let me create while it is my turn. 

 Drop the needle. 

Jenny Salgado alias J.Kyll