Kenneth Shae

Fort Good Hope
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Artist Story

I always say music is like life; you never stop learning. You need heart to make it happen. I play bass, acoustic and electric guitar and am teaching myself the drums. I make my own home recordings in my teepee with drums, a couple mixing boards, microphones, equalizers and a digital recorder. There is no echo because the teepee is all round. It is a very real sound. Over the years, there have been many recordings done in my teepee, probably hundreds.

I started playing guitar after I got back from residential school when I was nine. When I was about 13, I learned a few chords from people. After a while I started thinking, ‘how come they’ve lived this long and only know these few chords?’ so I started teaching myself. When I got my first guitar a year later, I wanted to play all the time. Music gave me a better way to spend my time other than drinking. I stuck to music because I didn’t want to have anything to do with that situation. It took me out of a bad, dysfunctional environment and I thank the Lord for that.

There is no feeling in the world like playing music. It can take you anywhere. Playing with others and making everything fit is like two hands holding each other. There are quite a few closet musicians in Fort Good Hope so there are plenty of opportunities to play.  I am inspired by bands like the Tragically Hip and Canadian rock like BTO, which is a good clean rock and roll and with no crazy sound effects or anything. I like playing covers like Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen or B.B. King. I like the blues where the bass is fast sometimes. It keeps me sharp.

Artist Bio: 

Ken grew up in Fort Good Hope, Northwest Territories and was first introduced to guitar playing by John Gardebois who taught him his first three chords, A, D and E, aka "Pouch" when he was about 12 years of age. Three years later at the age of 15, accompanied by his friend Stanley Cook, he played his first entire song, "Wild Horses" by The Rolling Stones. Soon after, he was playing along with Thomas Manual’s fiddle. As Ken grew older he noticed many changes happening in his community: an overabundance of alcoholism, an increase in family violence, vandalism and dysfunctional families. He also felt the direct impacts from his personal experiences at residential schools. Music has always given Ken a way to escape from the negativity n his life. In the late eighties he formed the first band, The Sans Sault Drifters. While together, the country/rock band performed in Norman Wells, Tulita, and Deline. Shortly after, Ken and his family moved to Fort Smith for educational purposes, and there he joined a rock/country/blues band called, Dark Horse. In 1995 Ken played a major role in forming the Woodblock Music Society and helped organize, the first Woodblock Music Festival in 1996. One of Ken’s biggest musical influences is Bobby Baker from the Tragically Hip. In between tours, Bobby and his wife Leslie spent some time in Fort Good Hope. One evening Bobby jammed with Ken and other musicians’ n the community. Bobby baker inspired Ken to continue to play and learn more. In 2002 , Ken had the opportunity to record the soundtrack of Grollier Hall Legacy Documentary. To date, Ken has performed in Inuvik, Aklavik, Fort McPherson, Norman Wells, Tulita, Deline, Fort Wrigley, Fort Smith, and Fort Good Hope. Throughout his musical career he has had the privilege to play with many talented northern musicians. “When I play music at festivals or help put up a festival, I feel a real sense of accomplishment and feel proud of myself because I have proved to myself that I can do it.. I look at it in a challenging way, it makes me want to learn more. When I travel to other communities, I meet a lot of good or professional performers that offer very good advice and show me methods of rhythm or bass patterns to different styles of music”. Aside from playing and recording his music, Ken teaches first aid and operates a sound system and musical equipment rental business.

Last Updated: May 23, 2023