Right now, at imagineNATIVE, I’m developing a music component that will hopefully play a part in bridging the professional gap between the Indigenous music and film industries. Both industries are booming right now, and it is truly an exciting time to be witnessing it all happen and to play a part in furthering the sustainability of these industries and their evolution. My goal is for Indigenous musicians to come to imagineNATIVE for more than just a performance at one show – they can attend workshops, present at an Industry showcase and meet film industry reps that will benefit them and their careers in film on an on-going basis.
When my boss and colleague, Jason Ryle (Executive Director) let me know there was a Music Summit focusing on Indigenous music in Ottawa happening over National Aboriginal Day, I knew I had to be there. In addition to the music summit, I was also there to introduce imagineNATIVE’s co-presentation at the Asinabka Aboriginal Film + Media Arts Festival and check out some new musical talent for this year’s Festival. Some of the sweetest parts of my job, for sure.
For the first time since I was a toddler and visiting my Grandma, I took the train to Ottawa. Making it to the station 30 seconds before the final boarding call, I got on the train and 5 hours later I was in Ottawa, sunny, beautiful and HOT Ottawa. That Thursday evening I relaxed and prepared everything for the next few days of activities.
On Friday I went to the Music Summit as part of the National Aboriginal Day Solstice Festival. It seemed most logical to take the bus – my iPhone’s google map told me that it would be easy to get there, with no stop-overs. About 40 – 50 minutes into my bus ride I realize that I am dead in the middle of suburbia and the blue dot in google map was no longer on the right path. Hmmph – I was lost. So I backtracked thinking it would be a good idea to walk. Um, I ended up in the middle of the highway – still lost. To make light of the situation, I Instagram-ed my exact location from the highway median, which made me giggle. And in taking my panoramic photo, I noticed the entrance to the park, where the summit and festival were taking place! Success!
So, I run the final half of the highway (or large avenue?), and explore my way through the park and finally reach the music summit. It was under a big tent on the park grounds – the breeze and quietness of the day was the perfect setting for learning. The panel was comprised of five music professionals, including Vince Fontaine (of Eagle & Hawk, and the producer of the summit), Candace Wilde (producer and arts manager), Leanne Goose (Singer/Song-writer), Eddie Birket (Booking Agent), and Amanda Rheume (Singer/Song-writer). The highlight of the panel for me was when the panellists got to talking about industry showcases because a showcase is exactly what I’m building up to for imagineNATIVE 2013. As an arts manager I tried to not take away from this opportunity meant for the artists, so I kept questions to a minimum. Still, it really got me pumped about meeting with some music advisors in the next couple months to develop Music @ imagineNATIVE.
I was excited to learn that that evening an Electric Pow Wow (EPW) with A Tribe Called Red was happening, which I’m sure you’ve heard about and have most definitely been to. If not, well… it’s time to take out your dancing shoes and go to one of these shows. This EPW was a part of the Asinabka Festival and opened with Ryan McMahon; the overall show is now up there with my fave EPWs. This was the first time I got to see Ryan McMahon, who was preeetty hilarious. I’m not usually one for stand-up comedy, but his set was def not what I expected, which I’m sure the surprise component had much to do with my laughing tears.
After a night of dancing, Saturday came and it was time to intro our co-presentation at the Asinabka Film + Media Arts Festival. This was especially exciting because it was their inaugural Festival, and the more Indigenous festivals across Canada, and the world, the larger the forum becomes for Indigenous artists everywhere! In celebration of this great addition to Ottawa’s culture and events scene, imagineNATIVE put together a special program of some of the work we have commissioned since 2007, including works by emerging artists, Genie Award-winning artists and experimental works. A highlight from this program was definitely the sound-art piece freek¡Üwhency by Janet Rogers, an experience to be had with your eyes closed in a dark cinema, which left the visuals completely to my imagination. The crowd also had a lot to say about this unique and stimulating experience, mostly about where it brought them mentally.
That day I watched about 10 hours worth of films! I really loved Smoke Traders by Jeff Dorn, a feature doc that discusses the “contra-ban” smoke trading industry on the rez, which took a diplomatic viewpoint and allowed us viewers to understand the positive and negative impacts of the industry on the Canadian and Aboriginal communities. Personally, I left feeling empowered with hope for the economic sustainability of our people and communities. The night ended at SAW Gallery – an artist-run centre I’ve known about for almost a decade and have never visited. It had a really amazing vibe of openness for creativity and expression, which was no doubt brought by the community that makes it come to life. The final Saturday night midnight program was both dark and hilarious – a smooth segue to my 2AM dinner at a local pho restaurant on a sleepy Ottawa street.
Sunday was my last day in Ottawa, and I was spending it at the Pow Wow! Seriously, four days had flown by at this point, and I still had to check out the jingle-dress dancers, smoke dancers and emerging talent at the Pow Wow’s Aboriginal Canada’s Got Talent. A fave was def a young woman from Pic River First Nation, ON, Binaeshee-quae. A singer/songwriter with a unique, classic-jazzy voice, kind of like a jazzy Joanna Newsome. The last act after Binaeshee-quae was who else other than Sagkeeng’s Finest, the winner’s of the 2012 Canada’s Got Talent. It was exciting to see them out with their whole troupe – 10 of them, young men and women jigging. Their feet actually made it seem as though they were gliding across the stage, it was pretty cool. They finished their show off with their Canada’s Got Talent winning performance.
My day was coming to an end as I ran over to SAW Gallery once again, to catch their closing program, a spotlight on Ottawa’s own Ariel Smith, who’s work was curated by Urban Shaman’s Daina Warren. Since I first saw Ariel’s work in 2004 (the beginning of my journey into arts admin), I looked up to her and her work, so being there was definitely a treat. They finished her program with a premiere of her new work Target Girl – which I thought was a captivating look into the exploitation of women during the 1920s vaudville days.
The night and my time in Ottawa finished first at the Elmwood Tavern with my newfound Ottawa friends to check out Nick Sherman, another amazing artist I recently discovered. He’s a singer/songwriter from Sioux Lookout, ON with a kind of Hayden/Jack Johnson-ey voice & style. After Nick’s set the full “Asinabka Crew” reconnected for final good-byes and Facebook exchanges.
Ottawa was actually an exciting adventure, but still low-key, keeping me grounded. It was fun to see familiar faces, meet new friends, and mostly to learn about what’s happening across the country! Ab Arts – in film, in music and with our traditional pow wows – keeps me alive and excited about the future!
Until my next foray outside of Toronto, peace out y’all!
PS – did I mention I missed my train home? (I didn’t think breakfast would take so long, it was Ottawa after all!)