From drum-maker to the lead singer of the Midnite Express Singers, Robin Opichee Day-Bedeau has been singing throughout Turtle Island for more than 30 years. So, it's fair to say Opie Day is pretty much a household name in Indian Country.
Born to his late father Joseph John Bedeau from Onigum by way of the Leech Lake Ojibwe Indian Reservation and his mother Charlene Anne Day from the Bois Forte Ojibwe Reservation, Opie is Anishinaabe—one of the people in Ojibwe—through and through. A member of the fish clan, his passion is singing—both powwow and round dance.
His music is not only award-winning but inspiring the generation to come.
His journey has been generations in the making.
Ever humble, he gives credit to those who came before him and continues on the legacy of oral tradition by passing along all he knows to his children, the next generation, and all he crosses paths with.
“I have had the privilege to learn and sing along with many great singers, some who have passed on and some who are continuing our legacy of song,” says Opie Day-Bedeau. “I am proud to be a part of that, in some small way.”
“I consider myself very fortunate and blessed to have the ability to make music in the way our people always have,” says Opie.
He recalls that ever since he was little that he was attracted to the energy of the drum, but it wasn’t until after his Father passed while very young did he realize he wanted to become a singer. Out of love, he wanted to honor his Father through song and tradition.
His journey isn’t entirely his own, however. He’s a proud father and loving husband to his wife Desirae Desnomie. What has kept him singing through the years is his desire to leave his family and children a legacy of cultural teachings. “It’s always been my goal to leave behind what I have been taught,” says Opie Day.
Being a lead singer carries heavy responsibilities. From ensuring the entire group gets to a location on time to knowing the songs, the responsibilities are more than just physical and mental, they also are spiritual. “Sometimes its challenging to make sure a group of 12 singers, who are all different, are coming together for the right reasons,” explains Opie Day. “This includes myself as well.”
Like any other group, band, or organization, everyone is challenged by everyday life and getting everyone on the same page can have its stresses. But being understanding that everyone has their own lives and organizing everyone together as one group is one of the best feelings there is. “When I’m around the drum with a group, ready to sing, there’s a special feeling that comes over me – that it’s time to sing and connect in the way our people always have,” says Opie Day-Bedeau.
The positives outweigh the negatives, by far, explains Opie Day-Bedeau. “I have been blessed with my family, adopted kinship family, aunties, uncles, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews,” says Day-Bedeau. “My love for singing and the drum is why I do what I do.”
He offers advice whenever someone seeks it, but shares that his one wish is for the next generations of singers to take the time to talk, listen, and learn from the older ones on the teaching, history, and traditions of why certain songs are sung or why certain things are done in a particular way.
“Protocols are important and as long as I’ve been in this (powwow) circle,” says Day-Bedeau. “I’m still learning.”
“We have the ability to continuously learn and always be better versions of our ourselves,” shares Day-Bedeau. “Always keep in mind that what we do as singers is a blessing and is healing for the people, dancers and spectators to forget their hardships or struggles for that moment in time.”
“To sing is to pray; to sing is to connect and that is the true definition of what it means to our people to sing,” says Day-Bedeau.
You can listen to Opie Day-Bedeau's music on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, YouTube, or hear him live throughout Turtle Island wherever Midnite Express is singing.