WIIKWEMKOONG—Jason Manitowabi has been itching to launch a major music festival in Wiikwemkoong ever since the last Three Fires Festival took place in 2000. Thanks to his lifelong friendship with Crystal Shawanda and her mentorship, music industry mojo and connections, some leftover Canada 150 funding at federal agencies, an intricate weave of funding from various Wiikwemkoong agencies, along with a lot of hard work, determination and passion, Mr. Manitowabi will able to witness the launch the Wiikwemkoong Arts and Music Festival (WAMF) this weekend.
“It has been a lot of work for a lot of people, but we are just about there,” admitted the organizer with a little bit of justifiable pride. “With the funding we have we were able to put together a pretty impressive lineup.”
That lineup includes headliner Tanya Tagaq, Ansley Simpson, Crystal Shawanda herself, the Ode’min Kwe Singers, Leland Bell, NS3, Josh Stevens, Brittany Manitowabi, Elijah and the Back Burners, and plenty more.
“We were so grateful to Crystal for helping us get Tanya Tagaq,” said Mr. Manitowabi. For those who may have been living under a rock without access to the Canadian music scene, Ms. Tagaq is a Inuk throat singer from Cambridge Bay (Iqaluktuutiaq), Nunavut on the south coast of Victoria Island who has been making waves on the International music scene. Her accolades include JUNO Awards (Classical Album of the Year 2017, Aboriginal Recording of the Year 2015, and nominations in 2015, 2009, 2006), a Polaris music prize (2014), a Canadian Folk Music Pushing the Boundaries Award (2014) and a Western Canadian Music Award (2015)—literally something for everyone.
In addition to the great music on offer, the WAMF is putting forward a host of educational learning opportunities in the arts, with Debaj visual artist-in-residence Barry Beaver facilitating a group painting and learning experiences. “Basically there will be a canvas where people walking by can pick up a brush and add to the painting,” explained Mr. Manitowabi. “By the end of Saturday night we hope to have enough added to make an interesting piece of art.”
Musician and world renown artist Leland Bell will be facilitating a workshop where he will guide people through his creative song writing process, the thespians of Debaj will be providing an improv workshop, Veronica Johnny (of the Johnny’s) will be sharing her knowledge (including grant writing) of navigating the Canadian music industry, while Crystal and Dewayne will be sharing their insight into the Nashville music industry.
Funding for the festival came from a wide variety of sources, including the Ontario Arts Council, Cnaada Heritage, Waubetek Business Services and the Wikwemikong Development Corporation among a host of others.
The WAMF will take place at Thunderbird Park in Wiikwemkoong from 9 am Friday, August 31 to 11 pm on Saturday, September 1. Tickets are $20. For more information, contact Jason Manitowabi at 705-859-1820.