When the Indigenous Peoples Program hosted the first Aboriginal Music Festival six years ago, they had no idea how big an event it would become.
The festival started as a fundraiser for the various programs the IPP hosts. They held their first festival at Amigos Cantina with about 100 attendees. However, over the past six years the festival has become its own event; this year’s sixth annual festival on Sept. 10 and 11 will take place at TCU Place and about 2,000 people are expected.
“Music is the voice of the people, the voice of the community,” said Raul Munoz, IPP program assistant. “That’s where you’re going to find the essence of inspiration, the essence of soul.”
Musicians at the festival come from all over North America but Munoz says an important aspect of the festival is giving emerging artists the chance to share the stage with established artists.
The wide variety of musicians matches the wide variety of music; attendees can expect to hear hip hop, blues, rock, traditional, drumming, flute and more.
“Everything you can think of under the sun is being represented,” said Munoz. “When you have Grammy award winners and Juno award winners on stage it makes for quite the night.”
Munoz, a fan of guitar, is most looking forward to seeing George Leach but he also mentions Motown singer Star Nayea, folk musician Leela Gilday and Winston Wuttunee, whom Munoz calls “the Aboriginal Stompin’ Tom.”
The Indigenous Peoples Program runs out of the University of Saskatchewan Centre for Continuing and Distance Education. They connect with different institutions to create educational opportunities for Indigenous Peoples across the country, explains Munoz.
They have six events taking place this year, one of them being the Aboriginal Music Festival. Other events include leadership training retreats with either an artistic or scientific focus, Cree immersion classes, a short film workshop and a green economic conference.
Much of the programming, including the upcoming festival, is geared toward students and youth, due to the large youth-based Aboriginal population in the province.
“We want to get them involved in as many community-based projects as possible. Community is essential to Aboriginal culture,” he said.
Munoz says the programming is about building a healthier lifestyle in the Aboriginal community.
“You don’t want to start late; you want to start early,” he said. “All they need is a nudge.”
Aside from being a celebration of culture and Aboriginal musicians, the festival also features a career fair and career workshops.
The career fair takes place on Sept. 10, with employer booths, workshops and live music. Munoz says the addition of the live music makes it more of a “welcome back to school event.”
Workshops are geared toward students, with subjects such as leadership and career development, the college of nursing and medicine native access program and how to start a career in radio broadcasting with CBC.
Munoz stresses that despite the name, the festival is for the entire community, saying that whether attendees are “Aboriginal, non-Aboriginal, green, black, blue or white,” they will find something to enjoy.
“Music ties the community together,” said Munoz. “When you speak about Aboriginal, you’re speaking of Indigenous populations all over the world.” Munoz points out the festival has hosted Indigenous musicians from Ecuador and Argentina. “When we said Aboriginal Music Festival, we didn’t think of excluding any population.”
photo Nadya Kwandibens, Redworks Studio