The past several weeks have been a rollercoaster ride for the CerAmony boys. Matthew Iserhoff and Pakesso Mukash returned to Montreal from a recent visit to Toronto with a shiny new possession in their hands – a Juno statue for Best Aboriginal Recording of the Year.
Relaxing at home after a celebratory weekend in Toronto, Iserhoff reflects on the experience he and Mukash had at the Canadian music awards, March 26-27. “I’m still wired,” Iserhoff confesses. “We were taking everything in stride, but when it happens, it happens so fast. You get this sudden jolt – that’s what it felt like when we got the Juno.”
Iserhoff admits he found the awards ceremony an anxiety-inducing experience. “We were nervous wrecks and could hardly sit still. I was squirming in my seat waiting for the category to come up. Once our name was called, my heart just pumped like crazy – it felt like it was popping out my chest. What a shocker!”
When looking at the other nominees in the Aboriginal recording category, Iserhoff’s surprise was justified, as the competition was quite stiff. “You had Derek Miller, Joey Stylez, Eagle & Hawk and Little Hawk. These guys have been there for years and have two or three albums in the bag. For us, just getting our debut album nominated was already an honour. And, of course, winning was even more of an honour. That solidified the idea that perhaps we are doing something right here.”
Since picking up the Juno, Iserhoff says interest in CerAmony has soared. “I’ve been responding to calls and emails left and right for interviews in the last couple of days.”
For the two members of CerAmony, their self-titled debut represents eight years of dreams and hard work. “The album is a combination of everything that we know and all the work we’ve put into this project. It’s a mixed-tape of the last eight years.”
The one thing that really stands out when listening to CerAmony’s album is the variety of musical styles, ranging from First Son with its Eminem rap delivery to the quiet Shine Alive ballad that highlights Iserhoff’s sweet-sounding voice. “All our musical influences are reflected here as well as certain messages we want to convey.
“First Son is about the challenge the Cree youth faced at the time of the Paix des Braves agreement in 2002 and about the power structure in the Cree territory. While Shine Alive conveys a sense of hope, a sense of peace. It’s like talking to your son or daughter about waking up without the sound of bombs or the threat of war.”
When it comes to CerAmony’s central message, Iserhoff says it’s pretty straightforward. “The idea behind the band is to understand each other regardless of where we come from, what our beliefs are, what our politics are, what creed or race we are. All religions have a ceremony and in the realm of the ceremony you find a sense of love and unity. We felt that this was universal as well as unique to what we do as Cree people with our spirituality and our traditions. It’s creating an understanding about where we come from – and music is a great venue to convey this kind of message.
“Also, our message is about getting involved; about questioning and challenging things in the Cree world – the politics, the leadership. It’s about creating a voice and speaking out on issues that we are facing. We need to assume that role and take on the responsibility.”
Then Iserhoff quickly adds, “But it’s not all politics, it’s not all social commentary, CerAmony is about having fun too.”
Another element that has contributed to CerAmony’s success has been the incredible support that the band has received throughout Eeyou Istchee. “It’s something we don’t take for granted. People have seen us go from two guys doing acoustic sets to now a band with electric guitars, bass and drums. And they have always supported us and that support is never forgotten.”
Besides the Juno win, another piece of big news is that CerAmony will travel to Germany in early April. “We will be performing in Berlin at a conference for the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. There we will be speaking out about uranium mining. As you know in Mistissini we are facing a similar challenge. Fortunately, the community stood strong against this mining project. So we’re going to Berlin to raise the awareness of what is happening to us right now.”