• By: Kat Walcott

Indigenous Voices Take Centre Stage at Megaphono 2018

Photos by Kat Walcott / Feature image: Viola player and composer Melody McKiver performs Megaphono 2018.

Megaphono music festival, an annual event which showcases independent musicians in venues across Ottawa and Gatineau, did not disappoint this year. With over 70 musicians performing shows and taking part in special panels during the three-day festival, the city was truly booming with a diversity of sounds and audiences.

      Jeremy Dutcher performs at Megaphono 2018

A standout aspect of this year’s installment of Megaphono was the series of indigenous showcases and panels that were hosted at the stunning National Arts Centre on Friday. The evening started out with the insightful “Indigenous Trailblazers: Carving Paths Trough Tradition” panel moderated by Rosanna Deerchild, host of CBCRadio’s Unreserved, and featured both legendary and up and coming Indigenous artists and activists including Alanis Obomsawin, Leland Bell, Dr. Duke Redbird, Cody Coyote, Melody McKiver and more.

Not only did panelists talk about their music, but also delved into serious socio-political issues facing Indigenous communities today such as poverty, lack of access to water and police brutality. Perhaps one of the most poignant things said was painter and musician Leland Bell’s powerful statement of “Every human being is a future ancestor,” highlighting the importance of doing good in terms of how we treat each other and the environment so that we are positive guides and examples to our future descendants.

The panel was followed by an intimate, joint showcase by young, up and coming indigenous musicians Melody McKiver and Jeremy Dutcher in the National Arts Centre’s Salon room. Ottawa's McKiver is a songwriter and composer who merges the traditional sound of the viola with the contemporary techniques of looping and digital processing giving her compositions a unique sound that is both modern and classic.

Leland Bell speaking at the Indigenous Trailblazers panel with host Rosanna Deerchild and other artists looking on.

Dutcher is a Toronto-based composer and vocalist whose music is rich with the history of his  Wolastoq First Nations heritage. Dutcher merges original recordings of Wolastoq songs from the early 1900s, that he uncovered in the Canadian archives, with his operatic voice and piano to create compositions that are truly out of this world and mesmerizing.

The evening concluded with the Native North America Gathering in the beautiful Babs Asper Theatre. The three-hour showcase was a celebration of the GRAMMY-nominated Native North America Vol. 1, a compilation album featuring various indigenous musicians and poets from Canada and the United States. Audiences were treated to live performances from a selection of the legendary artists who featured on the album including Willy Mitchell, Eric Landry, Leland Bell and Willie Trasher. Audiences were in awe as the artists delivered their poems and songs with an indescribable silence among the crowd as each artist performed.

Megaphono’s commitment to putting the spotlight on independent and indigenous artists, those who are often not granted such big platforms, cements it as an important festival for the Capital Region and one that we hope continues pushing the envelope for many years to come.