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Jowi Taylor

Designer of The Voyageur Guitar

“A country isn’t really a country unless it has a story”. Jowi Taylor owns and designed the most unique guitar in Canada. His presentation is more than a story about a guitar, but rather a story and lesson about our country. The Voyageur guitar represents and holds pieces we treasure across the country and tells of geography, history, pride and more: one of the seat boards from Massey Hall, a tiny bit of gold from his Maurice Rocket Richard’s Stanley Cup ring, and tells a moving story of one of the most rare & revered trees in Canada that embodies the spirit of a nation.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Presentations

The Six String Nation Guitar
Officially nicknamed Voyageur at a ceremony in Winnipeg in February 2008 – this guitar is an instrument unlike any in the world. The guitar is quite literally a piece of Canadian history…. or 64 pieces of history to be exact. All of the materials from which the guitar is constructed are contributions from different cultures, communities and characters that, together, tell the story of a multi-cultural Canada; offering a vision of Canada that is at once local and national in an object that is both an artifact and a living, breathing instrument.

  • Jowi's concept resonates with our own public programming mission at the NCC and we have continued to invite him back... He has proven to be an excellent animator, host and story-teller. He speaks compellingly about the evolution of his project and, in conjunction with the extraordinary footage and photographs he has gathered, he elicits powerful emotional responses from audiences. With his wide knowledge of Canada, and through the specific histories vested in the Six String Nation guitar itself, he makes people feel and identify with Canada's vast national story at a very personal level.

    - Director, Public Programming/Directeur des programmes publics
  • The Six String Nation Guitar is not only built from different narratives, but also creates a new story about Canada every time it's picked up. Recognizing this immediately, the authors and audience of the International Festival of Authors lined up to see and hold the guitar, eager not to miss this great opportunity to contribute their own verse.

    - Artistic Associate, International Festival of Authors
  • Jowi was fantastic and was very well received by our group...He was also a delight to work with.

    - Director, Trade Association Services, Credit Union Central of Canada

Summary Profile

Jowi’s creative journey began in a Toronto high school with the influence of a series of Writers-in-Residence, including CanLit luminaries such as Katherine Govier, David McFadden and Christopher Dewdney. Eventually, he was invited to be part of author and playwright David Young’s storied “Dream Class” for gifted writers. While studying Linguistics at the University of Toronto, Jowi took up radio hosting as a volunteer at Ryerson’s CKLN-FM. A break in studies took him to Thailand for a year where, among other adventures, he hosted a daily show at WNSP in Bangkok. Returning to complete his degree at UofT, he also reassumed duties at CKLN as host of From There To Hear, a weekly world music show and began a 10-year stint as a production coordinator at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre.

This unique combination of skills lead to his being chosen as host of a new CBC radio show called Global-Village. Over its decade on-air, Global-Village garnered countless international awards, including the prestigious Prix Italia, the Gabriel Award, the New York Festivals Award and multiple prizes from Germany’s Deutsche Welle Radio. At the same time, Jowi began work on other radio projects within CBC. His first series with co-producers Paolo Pietropaolo and Chris Brookes, The Wire: The Impact of Electricity on Music, won a 2006 Peabody Award, a Prix Italia, a New York Festivals Award and the Third Coast Audio Festival Director’s Choice Award. Their next team project, Invisible Cities: Toronto also earned a New York Festivals prize and their Wire follow-up series The Nerve: Music and the Human Experience was nominated for a Peabody and won a 2009 New York Festivals Award. Jowi left the CBC at the end of 2008. Along the way, Jowi has written for publications such as Shift and Montage and served as a board member with the Images Festival, ImagineNative and the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals. He’s been guest speaker and panelist at countless conferences and festivals but it’s really his Six String Nation project that has occupied most of his heart in recent years.

Conceived in 1995, the project to build a guitar using pieces of historical and cultural materialfrom every part of Canada took 11 years to come to completion. That happened before a crowd of some 80,000 people on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Canada Day 2006. Since then, Voyageur (the guitar’s official nickname) has travelled well over 200,000km across the country appearing at festivals, conferences, concerts and schools. It’s been played by hundreds of Canada’s best musicians and been held by over 8000 different Canadians in a series of some 50,000 portraits that ranks as one of Canada’s most ambitious photo projects. The story of the guitar and a selection of those portraits is the subject of his 2009 book for publisher Douglas & McIntyre, Six String Nation: 64 Pieces. 6 Strings. 1 Canada. 1 Guitar. The project is also the subject of a unique 2009 commemorative collector coin in the shape of a guitar-pick from the Royal Canadian Mint.

This is what we're up to in the Six String Nation right now: Well hi there! #JianGhomeshi in simpler times @ifoa... http://t.co/yuZ5haBFzb (Oct 29)
Well hi there! #JianGhomeshi in simpler times @ifoa '06 Portrait by @dougtoronto http://t.co/E8zyrMsKg8 #6SN #IFOA35 http://t.co/srsVnHZaf4 (Oct 29)
Callaghan recites Service at the @ifoa opening party #IFOA35 http://t.co/A19vtnpA1c (Oct 27)