The Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards played to a proud and packed house in Toronto November 25. This was evident by the intensity that rippled through the audience when anyone spoke their native language – or when the hoop dancer did her thing, and flew like an eagle, prompting a spontaneous standing ovation.

The opening performance started with four fiddlers from across the country, including 16-year-old rising star Ryan D’aoust from Norway House, Manitoba, and fiddling master Donny Parenteau, whose fingers left smoke in their wake.

To the delight of the female fans, actor Adam Beach appeared on stage with a perma-grin and a faux-hawk, although he was seemingly at a loss for words. Not that anyone minded.

Inuit sensation Tagaq came out and did something with her voice that left everyone with mouths agape wondering what had just happened. It was throat singing to be sure, but sounded like a full band of 10! The sounds she emitted were similar to the heart thumping, back breaking beats of hip-hop, mixed in with a labyrinth of shorter, lighter, almost funny notes.

The song was apparently a work out, too, as she contorted her body in time with the beat and looked thoroughly spent after. Amongst the media on hand who were sharing observations, all

one woman could say was, “I think we just saw something really special.” Incidentally, Tagaq was the winner of three awards, including best female artist.

The festival, held at the Roger’s Centre, just keeps growing, with more activities, more dancers, more performers, more food, more wares and more people. This year there was a whole week of festivities, including fashion shows, a comedy night, musical performances, round circles, dance shows, a book launch, and of course, the largest Pow Wow in Canada.

New to the Pow Wow were a gourmet native food area and an expanded children’s area. The marketplace spilled over to the upper level of the centre, with booths running halfway round.

For this observer, it was truly a sight to behold from the upper level, looking out over all those people who were there to celebrate First Nations culture, to see new friends being made, and new bonds forged.

For the past 12 years, the festival has been held at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, but now it will hit the road. Starting next year, the festival and awards show will be held in different cities across the country. The next stop is slated for Winnipeg the first week of November, 2006.