Chisasibi was hot in August. First the community hosted the country wide Cree Nation gathering of its confederacy. Then there was the annual Pow Wow on Fort George Island and the countless summer weddings. Closing the two-week long festivities, the James Bay Cree Communications Society held the official launch of their regional radio network by broadcasting a live concert from Job’s Memorial arena to the nine Cree communities.
An event isn’t an event in Creeland unless the show starts at least an hour late, waiting for people to show up. There was discussion whether to blackout Chisasibi from the broadcast to get people to attend, but someone was listening on his car radio on the way to the show when the broadcast died.
Thus, the patient crowd and radio listeners heard and saw performances by the infamous and legendary Chisasibi Rockers. The “Rockers” have been together for 30 years and are known for touring the windy James Bay coast by boat, once having to find refuge on a tiny island to dry their guitars. They may not be as old as the Strolling Bones but they are a comeback band who knew their time was here.
Other performers were Mistissini’s Morley Gunner who made everyone smile with his between-song jokes, loud red shirt and old country songs. Matthew Iserhoff sang a passionate version of U2’s Where The Streets Have No Name. Deputy Grand Chief and fiddler Matthew Mukash came on. Someone shouted out a request for “The Orange Blossom Special” after the Deputy’s first song. Other performers were Robert Bobbish, Roger House, Daryll Hester and Pakesso Mukash. The performers were backed up by, for lack of an official name, the Randall Prescott Project. Randall Prescott of Rip Roar Music was conveniently in town recording a compilation album of Cree musicians.
Francine Weistche of Waskaganish was joined onstage by all the performers and ended the evening with Amazing Grace.
This was the first time JBCCS aired regionally. In its 20-year existence JBCCS members have started small radio stations, published the Cree Ajemoon newspaper, and dabbled in TV – all the while struggling to survive miserly budgets.
But things have just gotten better financially. “We didn’t expect it,” said Vice-president Raymond Menarick, of the $500 thousand the society received to modernize their community stations. Now listeners can tune in to Eastmain broadcasting all over Creeland. Imagine the bingos.
The party didn’t end that night. The following evening, The Randall Prescott Project gave a concert performing songs by Steve Earle. They were followed by Sin City, an AC/DC clone band from Kitchener. People sat through the concert waiting for their favorite songs to be played, but no one heard Hell’s Bells ringing.