Two weeks ago I started thinking about going to AMW & Manito Ahbee. I definitely should have considered this trip at least a month and a half ago, but it was only a month and a half ago that I was thick in the business of imagineNATIVE 2011. So here I am two weeks ago desperately wanting to head out to The Peg for some Indigenous love (a.k.a – witness tons of talent in Indigenous music and, of course, pow wow).
I was convincing myself up until the last minute – “you NEED to be there, Sage. You’ve got to see all the new music coming out. Isn’t Winnipeg a hub for Aboriginal music and arts?” I, with our Events Team at imagineNATIVE, program all the live performances at imagineNATIVE, the big one being The Beat, but also our Opening Night Party, New Media Mash-Up and Closing Awards Show. This was my opportunity to hear potential acts for imagineNATIVE from across Canada, and North America, in one place. Fair enough. I was convinced. So, I booked my flight and brought my butt to Winnipeg.
Thursday, November 3, I’m in Winnipeg and all settled in with the first order of business: check out Manitoba Music and visit Alan Greyeyes. Alan is one of the main (volunteer!) organizers of AMW and on numerous accounts Alan was referred to as “The Man.” Not a stretch by any means. His commitment and enthusiasm are unbelievable, and it shone through at all of the shows AMW put on. After getting the down-lo on the next few days and saying “heyyyyy,” I skipped over to Urban Shaman Gallery. I’ve wanted to visit Urban Shaman forever, so I was very excited to be able to check the space out. The exhibition on now includes the work of Rolande Souliere (Ojibway and a Toronto Native) and Jenny Fraser (Aboriginal Australia). I enjoyed Jenny’s “Name That Movie,” it was witty, funny and unimposing in its examination of colonization.
That was only Thursday afternoon, the same day I’d gotten to Winnipeg. In addition to learning that Winnipeg is the windiest city in Canada, the next three nights and four days were full of discovering new music, meeting awesome peoples, exploring Winnipeg and non-stop dancing! I really didn’t think being in Ontario put me in an “Ontario bubble,” but it kind of has. Which is why I felt so incredibly grateful to have been able to travel to see these artists I may never have had the chance to see. Highlights of my trip include seeing the Golden Agers at the pow wow and performances by Leela Gilday, World Hood and Sherry St. Germain.
The first event I went to was the Singer/Songwriters Concert to check out the young opening acts for Leela Gilday and the woman herself. It’s no wonder she took home the Aboriginal Female Entertainer of the Year at the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards (APCMAs). Wow! That woman inspires me to the max. She is a powerhouse, and swept the audience off their feet. One of the first songs she played was Dene Love Song, which is one of my all-time Leela favourites, but I’d have to say I really loved the high energy of Disappearing Humans. Jason Burnstick rocked it in that one too. The cherry on top was Jason and Leela’s chemistry on stage – it was fun and endearing, adding to the intimacy of the whole show.
Friday’s schedule saw the APCMA’s and A Tribe Called Red’s Electric Pow Wow. I headed over to the Awards to catch the first bit before the Electric Pow Wow, but realized doors opened at nine for Electric Pow Wow and I did not want to miss World Hood. So opting out of the Awards I headed over to the Pyramid to catch them. I had only seen and enjoyed a couple of their videos on YouTube, though it’s always hard to gauge what you’re getting into based on that, so I was waiting in anticipation for their set. With few feelings of regret about missing the Awards, I was so stoked that I got to see World Hood. I was nothing but blown away. The mixture of dub, “world” and Estrella’s voice were the perfect prelude to Electric Pow Wow and the perfect introduction to playing their album on repeat for the rest of my Winnipeg trip (and a little less fanatic now, but still playing it enough to enjoy).
The next day I got all done up to go check out Manito Ahbee. I really love watching pow wow dancers. The colour and designs of their regalia and the movement of the dancers’ feet always captivate me, entrancing me for hours on end. When I first got to Manito Ahbee I immediately bumped into Derek and Naomi Martin of Tribal Vision. What a treat to bump into someone from home (at least, close to home), all the way out in Winnipeg! It really comforted me and pumped me up even more about seeing the dancers. Of my two days at the pow wow my favourite dancers were the Golden Agers. The Jingle Dress Golden Agers to be exact! Those older women were so determined and beautiful as their precise footwork synced perfectly with the drum.
By Saturday AMW was coming to a close, and who better to end a week/end of new and exciting sounds in Indigenous music than Derek Miller?! Derek Miller is pretty much a household name; he rocks that guitar, keeps the crowd moving and singing along all night, and, on a side note, that very dapper, rockabilly-inspired look he sports these days only adds to the enjoyment of the show too (if I do say so myself)!
Just before Derek’s show, a young woman by the name of Sherry St. Germain was set to open. I’d never heard of her before and had absolutely no idea what to expect. To be honest, I was expecting country or folk, as that usually trends. She walked up to that stage and I am instantly brought to a Janis Joplin performance back in the day (even though I’m far too young to have ever possibly seen a Joplin show, she still put me in the zone). This woman has a big, bluesy voice and an obvious connection to her music, bringing everyone along for the journey. The high energy of her performance was what real rock and roll is – lively, rebellious and loud!
Post AMW, I spent my Sunday at Manito Ahbee, eating stadium food, checking out vendors (I got a preetty pair of earrings) and watching the dancers, until I made my way over to my Auntie and Uncle’s, where I spent some time with my three younger cousins. They made sure to give me a tour of Winnipeg (which is actually a really cute city), bringing me to “the bridge,” “the village,” “the big park,” a haunted hotel and downtown. The next morning I got on my flight, which is when I really had the opportunity to think about all the potential of future imagineNATIVE events! I am so incredibly excited about the music coming out, and even more so about meeting with the imagineNATIVE Events Committee to discuss everything I just saw and experienced.
Thank you, Winnipeg!
Sage Paul is the Events and Communications Director at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, where she has worked since 2004 and now oversees the creation of the yearly campaign; the outreach, marketing and publicity strategies; online and digital initiatives; outreach activities including the annual tour and indigiFLIX screening series; and produces all of the events at the annual festival. Sage is from Toronto and is a member of the English River First Nation.