Local poet and VIU professor Sonnet L’Abbé wrote and performed a song as part of the city’s Reimagine Nanaimo campaign. (Photo courtesy City of Nanaimo/Port Theatre)

Local poet and VIU professor Sonnet L’Abbé wrote and performed a song as part of the city’s Reimagine Nanaimo campaign. (Photo courtesy City of Nanaimo/Port Theatre)

Poet pens song as part of city’s Reimagine Nanaimo campaign

Sonnet L’Abbé encourages a friend to move to the city in ‘Nazaneen: A Song for Nanaimo’

Two years ago Sonnet L’Abbé couldn’t play the guitar or sing, but the local poet and VIU professor has already achieved her goal of performing at the Port Theatre.

On Nov. 27 the City of Nanaimo released a video of L’Abbé performing her new song, Nazaneen: A Song for Nanaimo, in the empty theatre as part of its Reimagine Nanaimo campaign asking residents for input on what they would like Nanaimo to look like in the future. The city also commissioned an illustration by local graphic designer Sebastian Abboud and a poem by youth poet laureate Valina Zenetti.

“We wanted to invite people who were working in different ways and different disciplines and represented a diverse perspective and I know Sonnet’s work to be really powerful and she’s someone who is known nationally and involved locally and I thought it would be valuable to hear her insight and vision for the future,” said Julie Bevan, city manager of culture and events, who added that she was “moved to tears” the first time she heard L’Abbé’s song.

L’Abbé’s vision is of a more diverse Nanaimo, which is something she sought to build when she chose to move to the city nearly five years ago.

“There are a lot of times when I miss being able to just run into a lot of people like me who share my experiences,” she said. “And that was a part of the decision to come here and move here, was to understand that I would be part of growing that diversity and I would like to see that continue to happen.”

Nazaneen: A Song for Nanaimo is written as a letter to a friend who is thinking about moving to Nanaimo but is questioning if it is welcoming to people of colour. In the song L’Abbé encourages Nazaneen to make the move and praises the local nature, weather and real estate, but cautions that “you cannot get a good jerk chicken to save your life” and “when I went to the Queen’s for the reggae scene all of the dreadlocked Rastas were white.”

L’Abbé mentions that she’s been sworn at and had her house egged, but at the same time she’s encouraged by this summer’s Black Lives Matter rally, which she organized, and sings “I found some fam at the Sunday blues jam who know why the black bird sings.”

L’Abbé said Nazaneen is an amalgamation of multiple people, herself included, and that the content of the song is based on actual conversations she’s had. Although the song draws attention to racism and colonialism, L’Abbé describes Nazaneen: A Song for Nanaimo as a love song to the city, noting that “it’s hard to make effective change or make effective critique without love.”

“I just hope people enjoy it,” she said of the song. “I hope it gets a conversation started and it keeps conversations from the summer going and maybe inspires people to also think about their own visions for Nanaimo.”

As for playing the Port Theatre, L’Abbé said she has updated her goal. She now hopes to perform there, but this time with an audience present.

More information about Reimagine Nanaimo can be found here.

RELATED: VIU professor writes over Shakespeare in new book of poetry

RELATED: Poet and VIU professor Sonnet L’Abbé wins $4,000 poetry prize


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter


Just Posted

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

Bob Joseph, author of 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act, will be available for a Q&A through the Vancouver Island Regional Library Jan. 28. (Courtesy of Vancouver Island Regional Library)
Everything Vancouver Island needs to know about the Indian Act and was afraid to ask

Online Question and Answer session with author Bob Joseph open to all Vancouver Island residents

A Courtenay resident labours to remove the snow build-up from around her car in February 2019. The area may see snow throughout the coming weekend. Black Press file photo
Snow, winter might not be done with Vancouver Island quite yet

Flurries, snow and cold temps predicted for the weekend for mid-Island

New population estimates peg the population of Greater Victoria at 408,883 as of July 1, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Population estimates peg Greater Victoria’s population at 408,883

New estimates show regional population grew by 1.35 per cent

The Salvation Army’s 2020 Christmas Kettle Campaign includes a new $5 tap feature for pandemic-friendly donations. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
EDITORIAL: Alberni Valley steps up in time of need

There are a lot of ways the outside world interprets Port Alberni…

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

Curling season is over at the Parksville Curling Club and Qualicum Beach Curling Club. (PQB News file photo)
COVID-19: Parksville and Qualicum Beach curling clubs forced to end season

Restrictions impact financial sustainability of both operations

Jorie Benjamin does a modern dance performance to ‘La Vie en rose’ by Édith Piaf, Louis Gugliemi and Marguerite Monnot, choreographed by Elise Sampson during the Cowichan Music Festival’s Highlights Concert at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre on March 1, 2020. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Cowichan Music Festival cancelled for 2021

The festival had already been limited to solo performances only for 2021

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

NEW CUTLINE Pacific FC fans fill the stands during a game at the former Westhills Stadium
 Starlight Developments has purchased the naming rights from the City of Langford for the next 10 years.(Gazette file photo)

Pacific FC slid into third place in the league after defeating FC Edmonton 1-0 at Westhills Stadium on Saturday. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)
Langford sells stadium naming rights for $500,000 to Starlight Developments

10-year sponsorship deal largest in the history of Langford, says mayor

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Trees destroyed a Shoreacres home during a wind storm Jan. 13, 2021. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay woman flees just before tree crushes house

Pamala DeRosa is thankful to be alive

Christmas may be over, but many B.C. neighbourhoods are still shining bright with the glimmer of holiday decorations and lights into 2021. (Black Press Media files)
British Columbians keep Christmas lights on past holidays to combat ‘COVID-19 blues’

One-third of households have kept their holiday decorations on display in 2021: B.C. Hydro survey

Most Read