Music and Dance

The Métis are famous for their fiddle music. Fiddles were introduced to the Métis by the Scots and French. Métis instruments, however, were more often made than purchased, since maple and birch woods were more readily available than the cash to purchase complete instruments. Most often the sound of the Métis fiddle is accompanied by the clap of sound from spoons and the drumming rhythms derived from a large tin pan. It was also common for the performer to provide rhythm by using his or her heels.

The Métis style of fiddle music is distinctive. The bottom string is often tuned up a tone from G to A. It is based on syncopation and extra beats, which give the music a “bounce” when played and heard. The music is typically played up-tempo and has a routine back beat. These features make the performance of waltzes and reels distinctive, and particularly suitable for dancing.

Like so much of Métis culture, Métis dance is a creative blend of European (French, Scotch, and Irish) and Indian heritage. The most distinctive of the Métis dance creations is the Red River Jig. This jig is a special fiddle tune that is danced in two parts. In one part, a traditional jig step is performed while the fiddle plays a high section. When the fiddle switches to a lower section, the second fancy footwork part of the dance is performed. It is common for this energetic jig to be played, while dancers compete with one another to dance the most quick, complicated footwork.