The beat goes on throughout the night, the spirits have been sated by loving subjects, songs that have been passed on for millennia, thoughts that have rung out for generations, tradition remains unbroken…
Then one day, thousands of years after the first primal beats of the chest, Ed Sullivan brought out some dinky looking lads from Liverpool, and the world changed. The beat went on but with a different drummer.
Cultural icons were remade overnight and confusion reigned. Beatniks and hippies were more of a nuisance than social change as this free-living lifestyle became the social norm. Rock and roll spurred musicians and artists to try to make it to the big time.
Meanwhile, in the far north, the AM radio brought in the soothing sounds of the Deep South, and a maverick named Elvis changed the way western music was to sound forever. The hard rock café lifestyles arrived with the shock wave of Cree students coming back from the south with strange-looking pants and hairdos.
Things got so bad that many friends of mine were critical of Rod Stewart’s scratchy voice. Don’t buy that album, it’ll drive you crazy. Just about every reason coming from the older generation to prevent the incoming rush of rock and roll in their home failed. The favoured genre of country seemed to fade from our aural range, forever branding C&W lovers as square folks.
Back home a new inspired sound reached the stages of Eeyou Istchee, most playing good renditions of their favourite bands and songs: the age of the home-spun rock and roll band had begun. Soon, the lead guitar player was next to the seat of God in some fans’ eyes and ear-splitting screeching and nasal reverberations of the lead singer drowned out the incessant pounding of broken makeshift drum sets set the stage for live performances in front of real people.
To many local bands, the highest possible level of stardom they would ever attain would be at local music venues or playing at the local watering hole to thirsty patrons. For aspiring Cree musicians, playing in another community in the 1970s and 80s meant that recognition and fame was nearby and itching for some talent scout to see them (no one really knows this but talent scouts live in Hollywood and never come north) and give them some lucrative recording contract.
Some singers did become our icons and some have passed on, like Morley Loon, Bobby Visitor, Ray Spencer and Clarence Louttit. The remaining survivors have made their own Cree style music and will start anew the songs of the past, except to the beat of a more contemporary heart.
Today, songs sung in our own language are normal and as accepted as Eminem and CCR. With modern technology, home-made recording rivals the big labels by producing near-professional digital recordings that sound great and cost little to the artist.
However, becoming well known and selling more recordings become more problematic to the budding Cree idol wannabe’s who often rely on hand-delivered recordings. They, in turn, get reprocessed into the inferior MP3 formats and bandied about on the Net until the songs get Kazaa’d to death and never do service to the starving artist.
Such is the life of music today, now forgotten in mere seconds.