Six String Nation

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Six String Nation Guitar - Voyageur
Six String Nation Guitar - Voyageur

Six String Nation is a public art and history project conceived by Jowi Taylor and centred around a steel-string acoustic guitar built from a variety of artifacts collected by Taylor representing diverse cultures, communities, characters and events from every province and territory of Canada. The building of the guitar was commissioned from Nova Scotia luthier George Rizsanyi.[1]


The idea to build the guitar was conceived by Taylor in the months preceding the 1995 Quebec referendum on sovereignty after a chance encounter with Rizsanyi, who was then attempting to build guitars using wood from local sources rather than more conventional exotic woods. While the impending referendum focussed on the political relationship between the province of Quebec as a francophone minority and the Canadian federal government representing an anglophone majority, Taylor sought to represent additional stakeholders within the national debate including multicultural and indigenous communities as well as francophones living outside of Quebec.[2] Over a period of eleven years, Taylor researched and gathered contributed materials for the guitar from every province and territory in Canada. A few materials were contributed directly by individuals to Rizsanyi. It was built by Rizsanyi in his workshop near Pinehurst, Nova Scotia, with assistance from Michael McConnell and fretboard inlay work by Sara Nasr. Work on the guitar was completed on June 15, 2006, and tested by musicians Dave MacIsaac of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and Roger Howse of Newfoundland. Additional elements of metal, leather and fabric have subsequently been added to the case and strap.

The Six String Nation guitar made its debut on Canada Day 2006 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa[3] at the invitation of the National Capital Commission. Following its official introduction, it was played by Stephen Fearing and subsequently during the show by Kyle Riabko, Michel Pagliaro, Colin James, Jean-Francois Breau and Amy Millan. Earlier in the day, it had been played on ancillary stages by Colin Linden, Tom Wilson, Popo Murigande, Joel Fafard and members of La Volée d'Castors. In subsequent years at the Canada Day main stage on Parliament Hill, the guitar was played by J. Knutson (2007), Ron Hynes (2008), Shane Yellowbird (2009), Wayne Lavallee (2010) and the guitarist accompanying Kardinal Offishall (2016). Over the years it has been played by hundreds of musicians - including Feist, Bruce Cockburn, Stompin' Tom Connors, Gordon Lightfoot, Rob Baker, Catherine MacLellan, the African Guitar Summit, K'naan and many others - at public and private events across Canada. The instrumental "Voyageur" by Don Ross from his "Upright and Locked Position" album (2012), was written for and composed on the Six String Nation guitar. In 2013 Jim Henman, a cofounder of Canada's April Wine, was asked to perform a few of his tunes on the Voyageur at his Toronto show and in 2019, an Ontario singer-songwriter composed and recorded an EP of 6 songs drawn from the stories embedded in the guitar, entitled "The Songs of Voyageur". Taylor and the Six String Nation guitar have appeared at festivals, schools, community, conference and corporate events in every province and territory of Canada.

The guitar officially received the nickname Voyageur - as suggested by Lt. Col. Susan Beharriell[4] - at a ceremony launching the 2008 Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg-St. Boniface.

In 2009, the guitar was part of the Un Paese a Sei Corde international guitar festival in Orta San Giulio, Italy, where it was played by Pino Forastiere and Davide Sgorlon.

In honour of the guitar, a fifty-cent coin was created by the Royal Canadian Mint in 2009.[5] It is in the triangular shape of a guitar pick and features a hologram of the Six String Nation logo on the reverse set into a depiction of Voyageur's sound hole and rosette.

On December 11, 2015, Taylor was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (Civilian Division)[6] for his work on the project by Governor General David Johnston in a ceremony at Rideau Hall.


The origins and process of the project as well as the encounters with people across Canada were chronicled in a book by Taylor in 2009, "Six String Nation: 64 Pieces. 6 Strings. 1 Canada. 1 Guitar." (Douglas & Mcintyre publishers)[7] accompanied by photos by Doug Nicholson and Sandor Fizli, including photos of the materials and construction process mostly by Fizli and a selection from among the tens of thousands of portraits of people holding Voyageur taken at events in all provinces and territories of Canada by Nicholson - an ongoing project.[8]

Additionally, the project has been featured in a number of other published texts and workbooks including the grade 9 core French textbook "Tu Parles!" from R.K. Publishing[9] and "Mathematics 10" for western Canada from McGraw-Hill Ryerson.[10]


A proposed television special and series about the building of the guitar and its subsequent travels was aborted by CBC Television Arts and Entertainment part way through the development process just months before construction on the guitar began on April 30, 2006. At that point, CBC Newsworld producer Deborah Smith stepped in to propose a more modest project called "A Canadian Guitar",[11] which played several times on the now defunct network.

Accompanying Jowi and the Six String Nation team on the journey to Haida Gwaii in February 2006 to obtain the wood from the Golden Spruce was Geoff Siskind, acting in the dual capacity of videographer and audio recordist, the latter for a documentary by renowned CBC radio documentarist Steve Wadhams. Wadhams' experimental audio documentary based on these and other recordings, along with interviews with Jowi and music commissioned from Don Ross, aired in 2007.

An interview on Shaw TV Vancouver's "Urban Rush" show on September 29, 2009[12] included performances by Barney Bentall.

The project was spoofed on the December 4, 2014 episode (#300193905)[13] of CBC Radio's This Is That in a segment about the creation of a Canadian "unity shovel".

Taylor has appeared in dozens of local and national radio and television interviews about the project, most notably in two full length interviews on TVOntario's The Agenda with Steve Paikin on January 2, 2013[14] and November 8, 2016.[15]

He was the guest on episode 70[16] of the Trailer Park Boys podcast, published on on December 2, 2016. During the episode, Mike Smith, as the character "Bubbles", played the song "Liquor and Whores" on Voyageur.


The guitar is made from 64 pieces of wood, bone, metal, stone and horn, representing a variety of cultures, communities, characters and events from every province and territory of Canada.

The guitar case was custom made for Six String Nation by Al Williams of Calton Cases Canada in Calgary, Alberta. The strap was made by Levy's Leathers of Winnipeg Manitoba. Additional pieces of significant material adorn both the case and the strap.

Voyageur Components
Province Community Description Location(s) in Guitar Construction
Alberta Brooks,

Dinosaur Provincial Park

Wood from interior of

John Ware's cabin.

Pick guard.

Upper element of leaf motif.

Alberta Edmonton Top of hockey stick from

Wayne Gretzky.

Pick guard. Stem. 4 of 4, L-R.

Bridge pin (1 of original 6).

Alberta Hand Hills Lake Community Dance Hall floor board

from Hand Hills Lake Stampede.

Top. Interior. Bridge plate.
Alberta Kainah First Nation,


Ammolite carved in the shape of

Blood Tribe Buffalo Skull symbol.

Back. Interior. Ornament.


near Dease Lake Nephrite Jade from Jade West. Headstock. Inlay.


near Port Clements,

Haida Gwaii

Part of only material extracted from

Kiidk'yaas, "The Golden Spruce".



Richmond Red Cedar from Jack Uppal's

Goldwood timber mill.

Back Int. Kerfing strips

on either side of end block.



Rossland Competition ski from Olympic medalist

Nancy Greene-Raine.

Back. Interior.

Reinforcing strip #2 from top.



Sidney Moulding from original era DeHavilland

DHC-2 Beaver


Elements #3 and #11, clockwise.



Victoria Wood from original gateway to Canada's

first Chinatown, Fan Tan Alley.

Top. Int. Kerfing, left shoulder.
Manitoba Gardenton Wood from St. Michael's Orthodox

Ukrainian Church.

Neck laminate.

Rosette element #8, clockwise.

Manitoba Gimli Icelandic "Lucky Stone", Lake Winnipeg. Fretboard inlay Fret #7.
Manitoba St. Boniface Beam from St. Boniface Museum, once

schoolhouse to Louis Riel.

Back. Sides. Binding.

Rosette, elements #5/13

New Brunswick Atholville Salvage from the Seven Years' War

French Frigate, Machault.

Top. Bridge.
New Brunswick Hartland Wood from world's longest covered bridge. Back Int. Reinforcing strip #4.

& Labrador

Cape Race Wood from Cape Race Lighthouse

motor cabinet.

Back Int. Heel brace.

& Labrador

Conception Bay Red Ochre in tribute to Beothuk people. Pick guard stain on side leaf element.

& Labrador

Nain Labradorite feldspar. Fretboard inlay on frets #3 and #9

& Labrador

Twillingate Wood from Christmas Seal

floating clinic.

Back Int. Kerfing at L and R waist.
Nova Scotia Halifax Rafter from Pier 21 historic site. Top. Interior. X brace.
Nova Scotia Lunenburg Decking from Bluenose II. Neck laminate. Rosette.

Interior top block and end block.

Nova Scotia Lunenburg Salvaged pew from St. John's

Anglican Church.

Back Int. Back brace #4, reinforcing strip #5.

Top int. B-L kerning.

Nova Scotia Sydney, Cape Breton Rail sample from Sydney Steel. Fretboard inlay on fret #17.
Nova Scotia Westphal Wood from the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children African Canadian


Top Int. fingerboard brace.

Back int reinforcing strip #3.

Nunavut Cambridge Bay


Muskox horn. Rosette.

Elements #4/12, clockwise.

Nunavut Iqaluit Whale baleen. Rosette.

Elements #2/10, clockwise.

Nunavut Rankin Inlet


Walrus tusk. Bridge pins (4 of original 6).
North West


Fort Smith Mammoth ivory from Dene

carver Sonny MacDonald.

Headstock inlay - White element of 6SN logo execution, nut.
North West


Great Bear Lake Acasta Gneiss, world's oldest rock. Fretboard inlay on fret #1, rightmost element.
North West


Yellowknife Wall piece from The Wildcat Cafe. Pickguard. Stem.

2 of 4, L-R.

Ontario Almonte Kitchen rafter from

James Naismith house.

Pick guard.

Side leaf element surround.

Ontario Cobalt Silver from Beaver Mine. Fretboard inlay on fret #1.

Centre element.

Ontario Niagara Falls Wooden nickel made from

Maid of the Mist II salvage.

Pick guard.

Side leaf element inset.

Ontario Ottawa Copper from the roof of the

Library of Parliament.

Fretboard inlay on fret #3.

Rosette, double ring.

Ontario Ottawa Oak door frame from Parliament

Centre Block.


Spine laminate elements #1/5

Ontario Ottawa Wood from sideboard of Prime Minister

Sir John A. Macdonald, Parliament Hill.

Top Int. Finger braces #1/2/3/4
Ontario Pic River First Nation Moose antler. Fretboard inlay frame around Labradorite on 9th fret.
Ontario Pic River First Nation Pipe stone. Headstock inlay

Red element of 6SN logo execution.

Ontario Sudbury Nickel ingots from Inco. Fretboard inlay on frets #12 and #15.
Ontario Thunder Bay Soup paddle from Finnish cooperative

restaurant, The Hoito.

Side Int. Struts below waist, L/R.
Ontario Toronto Window frame from Lawren Harris'

Group of Seven "Studio Building".

Top Int. Kerfing on R shoulder.

Back int. Back brace #1

Ontario Toronto Paul Henderson's hockey stick from

Game 8, 1972 Summit Series.

Pick guard. Stem.

1 of 4, L-R. Bridge pin (1 of original 6)

Ontario Toronto Seat 69, Gallery section, Massey Hall. Headstock + Rosette, elements #1/9, clockwise.
Prince Edward


Cavendish Wood from the property where "Green Gables"

author Lucy Maud Montgomery was

raised by her grandparents.

Back. Interior.

Reinforcing strip #1 from top.

Prince Edward


Charlottetown Wood from office of J.R.'s Bar music venue

founder Johnnie Reid.

Prince Edward


Lennox Island First Nation Handle of Mi'kmaq oyster shucking champion

Joe Labobe's prized shucking knife.


Seat for bottom strap post.

Prince Edward


Pinette Wood from mallet belonging to "Canada Tree" sculptor Tyler Aspin. Rosette. Elements #6/14, clockwise.
Prince Edward


Rustico Wood from interior of Doucet House, PEI's

oldest family dwelling, Acadian origin.

Back Int. Back brace #2.

Top Int. Kerfing at waist.

Quebec Kuujjuaq, Nunavik Caribou antler ulu carved by Charlene Watt. Fretboard inlay on fret #5
Quebec Montebello Baseboard moulding from Manoir Papineau. Neck laminate, centre strip.
Quebec Montreal Fairmount Bagel bakery shibba. Back.

Spine laminate elements #2/4

Quebec Montreal Gold from Maurice "Rocket" Richard's

1955-56 Stanley Cup ring.

Fretboard inlay on fret #9
Quebec Montreal Wood from Seat 10 Row G Section 321 of the old Montreal Forum. Pick guard. Stem.

3 of 4, L-R.

Quebec Montreal Canoe paddle belonging to 15th and 17th

Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

Top Int. Neck and fingerboard brace.

Truss rod access.

Quebec Quebec City Drapery pin from Walter S. Painter designed

Theatre Capitole.

Side Int.

Struts between upper bouts and waist, L/R.

Quebec St. Armand Slate from purported chapel roof built by

slaves owned by American Philip Luke.

Bridge Pins Slate ground into powder color for pin detail.
Saskatchewan One Arrow First Nation,

Duck Lake

Stone from monument to Almighty Voice

aka. "Kisse-Manitou-Wayo" / "Shu-Kwe-weetam"

Fretboard inlay on fret #1, leftmost element.
Saskatchewan Patuanak Moose shin contributed by Don Reed and

participants in his community music program.

Fretboard inlay on fret #3, frame.
Saskatchewan Veregin Wood from grain elevator built by Doukhobor exiles

from Russia led by Peter Verigin.

Back. Spine. Centre strip.

Rosette element #8.

Yukon Dawson City Flooring from cabin of author Jack London. Back Int. Kerfing at lower bout L/R.
Yukon Dawson City/Pelly Crossing Marten hide stretcher used by trapper/photo-

documentarist J.J. Van Bibber.

Top Int.

Tone bars #1/2. Kerfing at lower bout L

Yukon Dawson City, various Wood from Yukon Rose river boat. Back Int. Kerfing on shoulders L/R
Yukon Placer Gold Claim Mastodon ivory. Saddle.
Yukon Qikiqtaruk (Herschel Island) Wood from whaling station community house,

the oldest wood-frame building in the Yukon.

Back Int.

Back brace #3 Top Int.

Kerfing at bottom R.

Case Adornments
Province Community Description Location(s) in Guitar Case
Alberta Kainah First Nation Sweetgrass braid gifted by Ramona Bighead,

principal at Tatsikiisaapo'p Middle School.

Bed, top,

under headstock pillow.

New Brunswick St. Andrew's By-the-Sea Chair Upholstery, Algonquin Resort,

Walter S. Painter Wing, ca. 1910

Bed, sewn onto sidewall at bottom end.
North West


Yellowknife Eagle feather gifted by Gwich'in

elder, musician and broadcaster,

William Greenland.

Bed, affixed to bottom at right waist.
Ontario Kingston Engineers "Iron Ring" Bed, compartment cover pull tab.
Ontario Kleinberg Bow tie belonging to author, historian

and broadcaster Pierre Berton.

Lid, neck.
Ontario Orillia Doily from Stephen Leacock House

Museum at Brewery Bay.

Bed, main body.
Ontario Sarnia International Space Station Expedition 34/35

Mission Patch contributed by astronaut and ISS

Commander Chris Hadfield.

Bed, main body.
Ontario Stratford Material from the original tent of the

Stratford Theatre Festival ca. 1953

Bed, compartment cover.
Ontario Toronto "Sleeping Beauty" Bluebird costume of National Ballet

of Canada prima ballerina Karen Kain ca. 1972

Lid, head.

Bed, waist.

Ontario Toronto Collage of materials from Regent Park neighbourhood

schools designed by students from Nelson Mandela Park

Public School with designer Kessa Laxton.

Bed, headstock pillow.
Ontario Toronto Material from backdrop of Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe

touring show.

Bed, main body,

under Leacock doily.

Ontario Windsor / Ohsweken Leather webbing from 1971 to 1974 Windsor Warlocks lacrosse

stick made by Six Nations stick maker Ennis Williams.

Bed, top, under headstock pillow.
Ontario Wolf Island Trousers donated by former coach and

hockey broadcasting icon Don Cherry.

Lid, main body.
Prince Edward


Tyne Valley Sweetgrass braid gifted by the Labobe family and friends

in the oyster shucking community.

Bed, top, under headstock pillow.
Quebec Quebec City Carpet from the mosque at the CCIQ, site of the

shooting on January 29, 2017, in which six people died and 19 were injured.

Strap Adornments
Province Community Description Location(s) in Guitar Construction
Alberta Edmonton Shoulder tile and cap badge donated by the

Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry - a regiment

founded in 1914 on a grant from Andrew Gault.

Affixed at front shoulder level, top elements.


Vancouver Material taken from a jersey (ca. late 1930s) of the

Vancouver Asahi, a Japanese-Canadian baseball team

also founded in 1914 and lasting until the 1941 internment.

Affixed on front closer to strap-lock device.
Newfoundland St. John's Shoulder tile and cap badge donated by the

Royal Newfoundland Regiment, founded in 1795

and awarded the Royal designation in December 1949.

Affixed at front shoulder level, middle and lower elements.
Nova Scotia Dartmouth Materials gifted from the wardrobes of each of the main three

characters of the Trailer Park Boys and woven together using the unique Atlantic rug hooking technique of the Grenfell Missions by artist Holly Boileau.

Affixed on front closest to strap-lock.
Ontario Chatham Wool from a cap belonging to Myles Neuts, a student who died

in February 1998, six days after an attack by bullies at his school.

Affixed at the back side, mid-way.
Ontario Toronto Cowboy boot of singer-songwriter Taylor Mitchell, who died as the

result of a coyote attack at Cape Breton Highlands National Park

on October 27, 2009, at the age of 19.

Affixed at back of strap over adjustment ribs.
Ontario Toronto Materials from Gord Downie's farewell "Man Machine Poem" tour wardrobe,

consisting of pieces from each of seven suits designed by Izzy Camilleri, feather and felt from milliner Karyn Ruiz and heel and sole shoe leather by cobbler Jeff Churchill.

Feather and felt on front above Asahi jersey.

Shoe leathers on back above Taylor Mitchell boot.

Guitar Diagrams[edit]


  1. ^ 'National guitar' to include 600-year-old Winnipeg wood, CBC.
  2. ^ Taylor, Jowi (2009). Six String Nation. Douglas & McIntyre. ISBN 978-1-55365-393-6.
  3. ^ Country music, The Globe and Mail
  4. ^ "One Guitar Unites Our Country". The Boundary Sentinel. 2009-09-24. Retrieved 2021-05-02.
  5. ^ "Take Your Pick of Enticing New Collector Coins as Royal Canadian Mint Launches Second Product Release of 2009". Retrieved 2018-05-07.
  6. ^ General, The Office of the Secretary to the Governor. "The Governor General of Canada". Retrieved 2018-05-07.
  7. ^ Jowi., Taylor (2009). Six string nation : 64 pieces, 6 strings, 1 Canada, 1 guitar. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre. ISBN 9781553653936. OCLC 302060380.
  8. ^ "Six String Nation's albums". Flickr. Retrieved 2018-05-07.
  9. ^ Tu parles! 1. DeBlois, Rachel,, Hendry, Linda M. [Toronto]. 2015. ISBN 9781927548189. OCLC 908168523.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) CS1 maint: others (link)
  10. ^ Mathematics 10. McAskill, Bruce. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson. 2010. ISBN 9780070002470. OCLC 657264090.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  11. ^ "Canadian Guitar". CBC Television. 2012. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  12. ^ SixStringNationTV (2015-06-17), 6SN Bentall UrbanRush, retrieved 2018-05-09
  13. ^ French Food Labels, Backwards Driver, Town Amalgamation, The Unity Shovel, 2014-12-04, retrieved 2018-05-09
  14. ^ The Agenda with Steve Paikin (2013-01-02), Jowi Taylor: Six String Nation, retrieved 2018-05-09
  15. ^ The Agenda with Steve Paikin (2016-11-08), Six String Nation Revisited, retrieved 2018-05-09
  16. ^ "SwearNet is the home of The Trailer Park Boys!". Retrieved 2018-05-09.

External links[edit]