Indigenous

Northern Cree in spotlight on NPR's Tiny Desk for globalFest series

Drum group Northern Cree is being spotlighted as one of this year's online performances in NPR's Tiny Desk meets globalFest series. 

Performance by 9-time Grammy nominees to be streamed Wednesday

Northern Cree is a nine-time Grammy nominated powwow and round dance group from Maskwacis in Alberta. (Sweetmoon Photography)

Drum group Northern Cree is being spotlighted as one of this year's online performances in NPR's Tiny Desk meets globalFest series. 

"I think it's huge in terms of people seeing what kind of music we have and what we have to offer," said Steve Wood, one of Northern Cree's founding members.

NPR's Tiny Desk video concert series has been showcasing some of the music industry's biggest acts in an up-close and personal presentation. 

This is the second year the series has teamed up with globalFest to showcase musical acts from across the world, including the Alberta-based powwow and round dance drum group. 

"We're just a vehicle for opening the door for the next generation of traditional musicians and letting young people know that we can take our own traditional music from its setting and put it on stage," said Wood.

He said he wants young people to know that they don't have to try to emulate anybody else. 

"You can be yourself and still aspire to great things." 

Northern Cree has received nine Grammy nominations in categories of Best Native American Album and Best Regional Roots Music Album. 

Wood said, in some ways, playing Tiny Desk meets globalFest is more exciting than the Grammy nominations. 

Big exposure for Northern Cree

GlobalFest, which has run since 2004 and for the last two years has gone online because of COVID-19, is a three-night showcase of nine global acts. 

Bill Bragin, the festival's co-director and co-founder, said Northern Cree was an obvious choice. 

"We had a pretty high awareness of their legacy and of their importance and their resonance across generations," said Bragin.

He said audiences understand "traditional music doesn't mean that it's historical — traditional music is also contemporary music."

One of the goals of globalFest is to create more understanding of different cultures and looking at that as a tool to bring people closer together. It also focuses on opening up stages to artists so that they can have more sustainable careers.

Alan Greyeyes, who runs artist and project management company Ogichidaa Arts and produces the sākihiwē festival in Winnipeg, said because Northern Cree already has a legion of fans, the exposure they receive from this event is going to kick off 2022 in a big way for the group. 

"GlobalFest serves as a seal of approval and tells presenters outside of the New York area that this act is worthy of your attention and your audiences are going to love what they do on stage," he said.

The performance was pre-recorded at Tsuut'ina Nation outside Calgary. The stream begins at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday on YouTube.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rhiannon Johnson is an Anishinaabe journalist from Hiawatha First Nation based in Toronto. She has been with the Indigenous unit since 2017 focusing on Indigenous life and experiences throughout Ontario. You can reach her at rhiannon.johnson@cbc.ca and on Twitter @rhijhnsn.

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