Rosanna Deerchild and Ryan Black on red carpet with Shawn Bernard (CBC)
I used to think I knew Winnipeg pretty well but on Friday night I was introduced to a slice of Winnipeg life that opened my eyes to a fascinating new world. And what a thrill it was.
I attended the red carpet event for the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards. I was there to cover the celebrities who walked the carpet and the fans who came out to cheer them on. When I arrived at MTS Centre Friday at suppertime the carpet was down and the velvet ropes were up and the fans had begun to gather.
Local Aboriginal media star and red carpet host Rosanna Deerchild was already doing the "red carpet host thing". I should tell you she was radiant in a flowing red top and skinny black satin tights with rhinestone piping. And there was hardly a fan without a camera or a girl without impossibly high heels and an impossibly short skirt.
Then there was a sudden buzz out on Portage. An extra-long white stretch rolled up and a beefy man in a sleek black suit and fedora slipped out and stood adjusting his hat. He was followed by a stream of Chicago-gangster look a likes in white, black and creme suits, almost all with hats, some with walking sticks and all with dolls teetering on seven inch heels. From the shrieks of the fans I discovered that Winnipeg's Most had arrived. So, I wondered, is this the new face of aboriginal music in Canada?
A gaggle of students from the Frontier School Division jammed up against the red velvet rope told me, as they giggled with excitement, that they had travelled from Wabowden, Leafs Rapids, Duck Bay, Crane River, Pukatawagan and Waterhen to see their stars - artists like Winnipeg's Most.
Next on the carpet came a radiant Miss Manito Ahbee 2010, in a stunning traditional green beaded dress and headgear walking demurely with a pair of sweet but wary four-year-olds. Ah yes - the rich range of what it means to be aboriginal now.
As the kick off of the awards ceremony approached the lobby began to fill and the celeb-seekers grew more diverse. There were older mums in team jackets, grey-haired grand-dads in fertilizer ball caps, 8-year-old girls on tip-toes, music industry types with long black braids and gleaming suits, men in beaded buckskin jackets and bureaucrats in business suits.
Larry Vickar of Vickar Community Chevrolet grinned, welcomed me to the awards, telling me he was a proud sponsor. He eagerly invited me to the Pow Wow 101 seminar to be held Saturday at a breakfast put on by Jim Carr's Business Council of Manitoba.
Over my shoulder a buzz was developing on the carpet as political rock star Shawn Atleo, head of the Assembly of First Nations, arrived followed by his predecessor Phil Fontaine. Speaking of Fontaines from Sagkeeng, then along came 17-year-old rising star Ali Fontaine with her beaming mum and dad. As the shrieks told me Ali Fontaine was clearly the fan favourite.
A gaggle of politicians chatted beside us, including Premier Greg Selinger, Culture Minister Flor Marcelino, Deputy Premier Eric Robinson, and City Councillor Dan Vandal who's also the Chair of the Board of APTN - the official broadcaster of the awards.
Vandal reminded me that this was the sixth year for the APCMA's in Winnipeg and boasted proudly how this city has become the Canadian centre for the Aboriginal music and that industry and these awards have become a a major economic engine in the city with not only artists, but recording studios, managers, venues, car and hotel rentals and airfares. His enthusiasm was infectious.
If you're curious to see the new face of Aboriginal life in Manitoba, if you'd like a taste of the glamour of an awards show without leaving home,or if just you'd like to hear the best of a genre of music that's still being born don't miss next year's Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards. I know I won't.
Terry MacLeod, host of CBC's Information Radio
Middle Photo: Winnipeg's Most at APCMA's (CBC)