Back on my 40th birthday, earlier this summer, I had a pleasant surprise: celebrating at Flipper’s Pub, on a Saturday afternoon, I heard a fabulous new jammer and a newcomer to Whitehorse, Jasmine Netsena. Singing some folk-country songs, she took over the stage and held us in amazement.
“I started playing guitar and singing four years ago,” she tells me as we sit at Baked Café, one evening.
“I moved to New York and it was my first time away from my family and stuff. I had been singing quite a few years, classical, opera and stuff. I started off singing in Tahltan, my Mom’s language, and they taught me some drum songs.
“I started playing guitar about four years ago. I started playing around at some open mikes in Manhattan.”
Manhattan? That’s a long way geographically and conceptually from Netsena’s home in Telegraph Creek, B.C.
“Manhattan is like a totally different ballgame,” she explains, sipping her herbal tea and pushing her long black hair back over her ear. “First of all, you have to pay to sit there and wait to play; you have to pay like $5 if you want to play. It’s become so far removed from what it used to be, probably, you know, Greenwich Village days.
“I’d been to New York a couple of times and I loved it. I decided to load up my guitar and I went down. I had no idea what was going to happen. I didn’t know I’d start playing an instrument.
“I’d bought an instrument a year before and it just sat there and my younger brother picked it up and started playing. He’s a good guitarist now and he always thanks me for giving up on guitar because it started him on his musical journey,” she laughs quietly. “Now he’s got a couple of bands going, because of my failure. But I picked it up again.”
More recently, Netsena lived in Yellowknife and worked at the local radio station, featuring Northern music, which included Kim Beggs. “I was very aware of her music. I was in Winnipeg, last year, and she came to town and I’d seen in the paper she was going to play in a bookstore in Winnipeg.
“I called my friend and said we have to go see Kim Beggs, and he was like, ‘Who is that?’ He looked her up and came back and said, ‘You know I like that song of hers, Pagan’s Wanderer. I’ll go.’ So we went and it was really good.?”And then I came to Whitehorse and my friend Dennis Allen told me, you have to go here and here, so I went over to MusicYukon and Kim Beggs answered the door, and I said, I saw you in Winnipeg!
“I was there to get information on open mikes going on in town, and I showed up at the open mike at Flippers a couple of days later.”
Since then, Netsena has been playing the summer music festivals around the Yukon and northern B.C., both on her own and singing backup with Kim Beggs and Kevin Barr. From Telegraph Creek, tracing her way across the continent and back, Netsena is a welcome addition to the Whitehorse music scene.