Family and community -– that’s what the Cree band CerAmony is all about, and it has become their mantra in their personal and professional lives.
Matthew A. Iserhoff and Pakesso Mukash took different roads to get where they are today. Iserhoff picked up music at a very early age (three years old), while Mukash learned through his spirituality how to keep himself grounded. Both men can boast a strong and healthy family life, which is why they feel they are successful.
On a cold rainy November 10, the brothers-in-law and Juno award winners performed at the Théâtre Plaza in Montreal and managed to attract 150 people. “We were stoked that it was our first official featured performance in Montreal. The crowd was rocking and on board from start to finish. We thank all those who attended,” said Iserhoff.
And the loyal fan base just keeps growing: there isn’t a Cree youth up north who hasn’t heard of CerAmony. The album was 10 years in the making and was originally released independently, but thanks to a deal with Disques BG who are distributed by Universal World things are growing for the band.
“All those years of work are finally coming together at the right time, so it’s very exciting. What’s important is that it is a realization of this family, we managed to pull together some great guys and now have a full band and have folks from up north coming down to hang with us. It’s pretty awesome!” said Iserhoff
CerAmony has been slowly creating a following in all nine communities up north. They recently played a concert in Nemaska to a rousing crowd, but what was more meaningful was how they were received. And that’s what brings the most joy to the band – seeing the smiles on the faces of their communities.
The album itself is filled with music from different genres. One song, You Belong Down Here With Us, is essentially a conversation with God but not in the conventional sense. “It’s wanting to know what God, Creator, Jesus thinks about what has been going in the world, ” said Mukash. The song addresses the connection the bandmates have to their own spirituality and the importance of keeping that close to their hearts.
If You Belong Down Here With Us is about spirituality, then Last Great Men is the honour song for those who have gone before. It reminds us all about where we came from, that the Elders’ teachings are still relevant, and that our youth need to keep that in mind wherever they go in life. The song has particular relevance in some Cree communities where the traditional way of life is being eroded either by the Paix des Braves or the upcoming Plan Nord.
“Everyone should have open concerns about it, be they First Nations or Québécois. There are so many cultures that are in danger of losing their culture – the Innu, Cree and Inuit just to name a few. The root of the issue is the land and there are so many great voices who need to be heard if Plan Nord is going to happen responsibly,” said Mukash
Iserhoff and Mukash are concerned about the Plan Nord because of the ramifications it has to the traditional way of life for all First Nations. For example, is it going to protect the herds of caribou? “They’re going to put 150,000 people up there in six years. What is that going to do to our traditions? That’s what Last Great Men is all about.
“It’s all about hanging onto who we are! As mentioned this album covers many genres, like reggae, and an ode to the 1980s pop hair bands. The album was written for Bell Centre fans because that’s where our heart is,” said Iserhoff
The goal for the album was to bring people together, and it has. I’m reminded of the old Cree saying, a family doesn’t just raise a child a community does and that’s what Iserhoff and Mukash hope to achieve with this album. They want to bring folks together, like Kashtin and Buffy Sainte-Marie did.
“Simon and Garfunkel and Guns N’ Roses inspired us on this album, why be stuck in just one genre?” asked Mukash.
To them, music is just another business and they want to be more meat and potatoes, with a little dessert. Thankfully they went through the right avenues and now the album is in stores and on iTunes. And that’s important for the youth up north who look up to bands like CerAmony and see that success can happen if you work hard.
“If you have a passion for what you do and you work hard, you can accomplish anything,” said Iserhoff.
For Iserhoff and Mukash, the most important thing is that they represent their communities with honour and respect which means living a clean and healthy lifestyle and leading by example.