On October 8, the Société de communication Atikamekw-Montagnais (SOCAM) and its spokesperson, Florent Vollant, hosted the first Teweikan Music Gala at the Cabaret du Capitole in Quebec City. This is the first time that an event like this was held to honour First Nations, Inuit and Métis musicians in Quebec and Labrador.

SOCAM is a non-profit organization which was formed in order to promote Aboriginal languages and culture by offering different services to the region. The event was organized by SOCAM with the support of the Quebec government which provided a $21,500 grant.

In total there were eight awards handed out. Of the eight, the Public’s Choice Award and the New Native Talent Award were presented by Quebec’s Minister responsible for Native Affairs Geoffrey Kelley.

Kelley remarked how the first edition of Teweikan was a success in promoting First Nations and Inuit culture by showcasing and rewarding the local talent with more visibility. He said, “I hope that Teweikan will become an event that everyone interested in culture in general and Aboriginal culture in particular marks off on their calendar.”

The award itself is a bronze Native drum sculpture on a granite base plus a $1,500 grant for each of the winners for a total of $12,000 being given away.

Seven of the categories were voted on by a jury and the Public’s Choice Award was voted on by the public via the SOCAM website. The jury consists of members from the three main Aboriginal communications organizations in Quebec: SOCAM representing the Atekamekw and Innu; Tarqamiut Nipingat Inc (TNI), the Inuit radio production group; and the James Bay Cree Communications Society (JBCCS).

The winners were picked from a total of 55 nominees from across Quebec and Labrador. Although all of them deserve recognition, there were only eight awards to hand out. Here are the winners:

Folksinger Philippe McKenzie won the Best Song in a Native Language with Innu, while Shauit’s Shapatesh Nuna picked up the award for the Best Song of 2011.

The Best Album Award went to rapper Samian for Face à la musique and the winner of the New Native Talent Award was Laura Niquay for her song Kakinkwantcioc. The Public’s Choice Award was given to Denis Chachai, an Atikamekw from Opitciwan, while Elisapie Isaac was awarded the Ambassador Prize for her broad recognition amongst the Canadian public.

The Aboriginal Radio Choice award was given to Pakesso Mukash and Mathew Iserhoff of CerAmony.

The Tribute Award for an artist who inspired the next generation was bestowed on René Wezineau.

SOCAM general director Bernard Hervieux said he approached Radio-Canada who were interested in taping the event but couldn’t change its programming because the proposal was made on such short notice to accommodate it.

The next Teweikan Music Gala will be held in 2013. The plan for the next gala is to have it televised and broadcast by Radio-Canada on its ARTV channel. Also, more categories will be added to the line up, including one for best traditional music, in order to encourage more artists to submit their work.

The reason why the gala will be held every two years is that the artists have a chance to work on their new projects without having too much pressure on them. Hervieux said, “We wanted to give them some time to breathe because it takes awhile to produce an album.”

This extra year to work on music will add more depth to the next gala and allow more aspiring Aboriginal artists to be nominated.

With close to 60 nominees to pick from this year, the Teweikan Music Gala was full of talent. This attention given to the Native artists of Quebec and Labrador will certainly benefit Aboriginal culture and encourage the next generation of Native musicians.