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Indigenous artists win the hearts of Folk Festival goers

Logan Alexis Singers and friends at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Photos by Paul E. Kirman

"Iqaluit is a place rich in musical culture and talent but bereft of music business infrastructure. There is no territorial music organization supporting export initiatives and organizing showcases. There are no booking agents, no music critics. But now, there is a music label, and that’s a start." — Nancy Mike

By Paula E. Kirman Contributor

Gallagher Park was once again transformed into a small city of music during the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, which ran Aug. 10 to 13 this year.

Music lovers who enjoy not only folk, but blues, country, and other genres always find something to enjoy among the diverse line-up, which also includes music with influences from cultures around the world.

This year, a number of acts had Indigenous roots. The Logan Alexis Singers and friends is a large ensemble of singers, drummers, and dancers from Treaty 6 who performed everything from traditional songs to country-tinged ballads to a hip-hop composition in honor of the Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid.

A particularly touching moment was when singer Ray Yellowbird dedicated his song to his late mother, Elder Lillian Shirt, who recently passed away.

Coming down from the stage and onto the Stage 7 grass dancers in traditional regalia invited audience members to participate and learn the dance moves. Towards the end of their concert set on the Sunday afternoon, almost everyone was up on their feet, taking part in a round dance.

William Prince is a singer-songwriter from Peguis First Nation in Manitoba whose country/folk music focuses on the lyrics. With a rich baritone and simple melodies, Prince made thought-provoking statements about reconciliation and payed tribute to his late father.

The Jerry Cans, hailing from Iqualut in Nunavut, was a runaway favorite at the Folk Fest. They received Emerging Artist recognition from the festival.  The band's Saturday evening concert performance on one of the side stages had audience members dancing and clapping. Their energetic mix of roots and alt-country included traditional throat-singing and lyrics in the Inuktitut language.

Lead singer Andrew Morrison explained that he was taught the language by his late father-in-law. Morrison’s partner Nancy Mike is one of the band's two throat-singers, and also plays accordion.

Gina Burgess is the other throat-singer (and violin player). Brendan Doherty on bass and Steve Rigby on drums fill out the band's rhythm section.

Supporting Inuit and Indigenous musicians is important to the band. In fact, in 2016 the band's members established Aakuluk Music, Nunavut's first record label, upon which their album, Inuusiq/Life was released.

Last week, before their Edmonton performance, Dustin McGladrey of CFWE-FM interviewed Nancy Mike of the Jerry Cans.

His interview is attached.

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