Indigenous music festival takes centre stage
- Angela Hill | April 13, 2016
This summer will see the kick off a new music festival in Saskatoon with headliners Don Amero and Errol Ranville of the C-Weed Band.
“I love playing Saskatoon to begin with because I lived there at one time and I just love all the people. There has been huge support for C-Weed Band over the years,” Ranville said.
“It’s an honour to be invited.”
The Saskatchewan World Indigenous Festival for the Arts is set to promote cultural exchange through great music, Aug. 24 and 25. The World Indigenous Business Forum (WIBF) being in Saskatoon provided a good partnership for the festival’s inaugural year.
According to Rosa Walker, president and CEO of the Indigenous Leadership Development Institute, the people behind the forum, the goal is to leave a legacy in every community where they hold the conference.
She said there is often a spontaneous jam night at these conferences, just with “people who have a natural ability.”
“It seemed almost a natural progression to go from that to a music festival.”
The people on the ground in Saskatoon, making it happen, are festival executive producer Curtis Standing and Milton Tootoosis, chair of the WIBF 2016 planning committee.
“We want to be different and unique than other WIBF,” Tootoosis said, “We want to set the new WIBF standard.”
He said he wants the kind forum that is a conference by day and festival by night. The good news for the public is they are invited to attend the music festival too.
Along with the headliners, over the two day music festival there will be Indigenous acts from places like Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii, Standing said.
“You could see something, you’ll never see unless you travel over there,” he said.
The music festival will also be about breaking stereotypes and giving new, young and upcoming musicians a chance at moving their careers forward, Standing said.
“There is so much talent out there, so much diversity too.”
“Not every Indigenous person sings powwow – they have created an Indigenous genre, they have created their own lyrics,” Tootoosis said.
Standing chimes in with an example.
“Even if we cover a song … we’ll interpret it in our own way, like Freddie Mercury’s song I want to break free, they’ll change the words, ‘I want to speak Cree,’” he said.
“So I heard a younger band, some younger kids singing that, so even when they do cover songs, they add an Indigenous flavor to it,”
They have indigenized the music, said Tootoosis.
It doesn’t stop there, along with traditional music, there is country music people, rappers, hip hop and heavy metal groups, Standing said. There are Indigenous People who play and write music up to their 80s and 90s and kids who can just dance.
“It goes right from traditional and right to contemporary too,” he said.
“There are not just four or five faces to Aboriginal music; there is so much diversity and so many new people coming up too.”
These new people will get a chance on the big stage in the Delta Bessborough Gardens during the two-day event – there will be four spots reserved for amateur groups and four reserved for youth. Auditions will be held in the next couple of months.
Standing gives the examples of a Dene rock band and some hand drummers he knows that don’t get a lot of exposure across the rest of the province. An event like the Saskatchewan World Indigenous Festival for the Arts gives the performing musicians’ exposure, but the reach is further because it shows other groups that making music is possible.
“So then they’ll pursue their musical quest in their lives,” he said, and because this is the first year of many, the opportunities will continue.
“The music festival is not just a one and done, we want to build it up.”
The goal is to make it an annual event, using this as a year to build capacity and learn from their partners like the Jazz Festival, Rock the River and Ness Creek. As it continues, Standing says there will be the opportunity to find more talent, not only on the stage but those who support the musicians, like sound technicians.
“Young people are always looking elsewhere to tell a story, but I think when we start developing our own talent, develop our own scene here we start telling our own story, we start expressing who we are.”
On top of everything that goes on behind the scenes, for people buying a ticket to see new acts or the C-Weed Band, the festival will just be a good time.
“Any of these kinds of shows that are staged in a professional manner are always fun to play and I think that it will be a treat for the local people of Saskatoon,” Ranville said.