Beloved family histories often don’t come alive to us in the full color and richness it deserves, but Toronto-based musician Witch Prophet completely reanimates her grandfather’s love and legacy in the Polaris Music Prize nominated music video for “Tesfay.” Through dance, music, and narration, both song and music video enchant the viewer with the past, which was likely always alive.
This film, directed by Leah Vlemmiks, begins and ends with five white dresses hanging on a clothespin and dancing softly in the wind. There is a gentle yet rhythmic energy that is established early on, movement which never ceases throughout the video. Witch Prophet’s narrative voice, confident and melodic, speaks warmly of her late grandfather, a single father who raised five daughters with a three piece suit and the best hopes for his daughters’ futures. Not before long, the voices and images overlap. Five beautiful daughters speak directly into an old-timey camera, making the moment feel timeless. The editor’s choice to let these voices build and rise up together is moving. Each speaker offers a different but similarly intimate detail of their father’s love. The father-daughter relationship is treated as holy here, something that is precious and tender, yet strong enough to leave a lasting effect throughout several generations. It is a true delight to see father-daughter love shine in its deserved spotlight here, especially when it is a love that is often missing from our own lives and cultural consciousness.
When the song begins, Karen Ng’s warbling, jazzy saxophone takes melodic preeminence, but works in complete harmony with the festive percussion and Witch Prophet’s light and mellow voice. In front of gold-drenched fields, clotheslines, and houses, father and daughter dance and I can’t help but smile when watching. There is something so human about the way this duo dances. Not that they are dancing messily or roughly; their choreography is simultaneously precise and groovy. Their joy radiates from their movements, a joy that feels so real. The saxophone, percussion, and layered vocals combine into an entrancing song that makes you want to dance joyfully too. “Tesfay,” a song off of Witch Prophet’s DNA Activation, is a true celebration of self. In context with its music video, this celebration of self is also a celebration of all the love that helps form “the self,” even from generations past.
Follow at @witchprophet
Written by: Misha Rani Ponnuraju