Native music celebration in Canada: Aboriginal Music Week

“Aboriginal people want to see Aboriginal artists perform all kinds of music,” says Alan Greyeyes, festival curator for Aboriginal Music Week. He selects acts to appear at the festival to meet that need, but there’s another idea in mind too. “We really want to use the festival and the music to build bridges with other communities,” he adds. “And it’s working.”

Considering the range of musical styles, interests, and backgrounds of the artists on tap for this year’s festival, it would be hard not to find connections across genres and countries. A Tribe Called Red mixes DJ and club sounds with powwow music. Afro-Latin Dub meets West Coast bass in the music of husband and wife duo World Hood. Folk singer and songwriter Leela Gilday, who counts a Juno and a Western Canadian Music Award among her accolades, will be among the artists taking the stage in Winnipeg during the first week in November, as will emerging songwriters Cassidy Mann and Kyle Cedarwall.

Derek Miller brings rootsy rock and Native life together in his songs, and like Gilday, he’s won a Juno for his work, and performed with singer and songwriter Buffy Sainte Marie among others. Samian traces the story of aboriginal people with a voice of soul, heart, and a kinship with blues. He has performed at the Vancouver Olympic Games, in Finland, France, China, and Indonesia, and will be bringing his tories and songs to the stages of Winnipeg.

“I have found Aboriginal artists to be some of the most boundary-breaking, original, and refreshing artists I have ever met,” says Gilday, whose songs of Aboriginal life have won her widespread respect in the folk scene

That boundary crossing aspect of Native music goes back over time. That is an aspect well represented by Métis fiddle playing, a style which comes out of the confluence of French, Irish, Scottish, and Native music in the early days of contact between First Peoples and settlers and traders from Europe. John Arcand is known as the master of Métis fiddling for his well researched knowledge of older tunes and his skill at composing in the style, as well. Arcand, who learned his sense of timing on the fiddle as a child by watching dancers’ feet, has represented Western Canada at the Fiddles of the World Conference, was a delegate at an Irish Métis Cultural Exchange where he played for the President of Ireland, and has also played for Queen Elizabeth during her visits to Canada. Arcand will bring his love for the fiddle and enthusiasm for sharing his traditional style to Winnipeg during Aboriginal Music Week, as will fellow Métis fiddler Darren Lavallee, winner of many Aboriginal Music Awards.

Gabriel Ayala knows a bit about passion, tradition, and timing, too. He holds a master’s degree in music performance, and that mastery encompasses classical and flamenco guitar styles, as well as a fusion genre that Ayala has created, called JazzMenco. He will be adding all this to to programs in Winnipeg.

Winnipeg, a crossroads of commerce and travel on the Canadian prairie, is becoming known as a musical crossroads as well, an aspect of the city that’s sure to be felt by those taking the stage and those in the audiences during Aboriginal Music Week.

Aboriginal Music Week takes place November 1 through 6

photo of ATribe Called Red by Pat Bolduc
photo of Leela Gilday by RedWorks Studio
used by permission

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