Miranda Currie, right, collects the NWT's Indigenous artist of the year award from ceremony host Tanya Snow. Megan Miskiman/Cabin Radio
Miranda Currie, Crook the Kid and Kilo November were among the winners as Music NWT staged its inaugural awards ceremony in Yellowknife on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Yellowknives Dene Drummers, Ted Wesley and Norm Glowach entered a newly formed NWT music hall of fame during a combined awards and induction ceremony at the Explorer Hotel.
Drummer Cody Drygeese said the award demonstrated the health of Dene drumming.
“I’m very happy to say that right now we have many people in our First Nation who are still participating in this ancient cultural practice,” he said.
Guitarist Ted Wesley passed away last December. Sister-in-law Heather Pritchard, appearing on his behalf, said Ted was “a wonderful musician with a very large range” who obsessively studied songs he heard.
“He didn’t do music for money or fame. He mostly played for free,” she said. “And he missed his chance for fame when he went to the Juno Awards, because they really wanted to sign up this wonderful young talent, but he would have to move to Toronto. And who the hell wants to leave the North to move to Toronto?”
Mayor of Yellowknife Rebecca Alty, introducing Norm Glowach as the night’s final inductee, noted he had spent decades focusing his immense skillset, from musical ability to audio engineering, on the Northwest Territories.
“I’m lucky,” said Glowach. “I get to record people. I get to work with my bandmates, who I have been playing with in Priscilla’s Revenge for 15 years. This is a pretty good life, I’d recommend it to anybody.”
Currie, named the NWT’s Indigenous artist of the year on Saturday, recently released an album designed to help children learn their traditional language.
“Every time I hear Miranda play, her music plays in my mind for the next six hours,” said the ceremony’s host, Inuk author and throat-singer Tanya Snow.
“It feels really nice that folks are recognizing my music,” Currie told Cabin Radio.
“We played a lot of shows this week and kids are singing the songs and the lyrics, even for the new album. That’s the thing that always touches me the most, when you see parents and kids singing along to stuff.
“You’re like, yay, because I write this music with a message to change that Indigenous narrative in Canada, starting with young people and their families.”
Gnarwhal’s Deep Spaced was crowned the best new single of the past year. The award for best new album went to Al Bee’s One From The Other.
Kilo November, the teenage DJ who sensationally closed the Cabin Stage at Folk on the Rocks 2019 and returned in 2021, was honoured for the territory’s best live performance.
“I’m still shocked. I kind-of don’t believe it,” said the 14-year-old, adding he discovered he had been nominated after his mom received the call while he played video games.
“She came into my room and said, ‘Something crazy has happened.’ I’m like, ‘What?’ And she’s like, ‘You’ve been nominated for this music award thingy.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh no way, that’s awesome.’
“I decided not to get my hopes up because I didn’t honestly think I would win.”
Fort Good Hope rapper Crook the Kid, who performed on the night, won the songwriting award of excellence. “I can’t believe someone in this room thought it was OK to give me an award,” he told the audience, laughing, following his set.
Other performances at the gala, opened by the Yellowknives Dene Drummers, included Nara, Johnny Cole, SkyFire Taiko (a form of Japanese percussion), Munya Mataruse, Five Thirds Mad, and Brenden MacIntosh, who won best debut release for Coffee Break.
David Dowe’s Double D Studios won 2022’s music industry award, while Inuvik’s Great Northern Arts Festival won an award recognizing its work as a venue. Inuvik resident Abe Drennan collected that award on the event’s behalf before picking up the night’s fan choice award.
Saturday’s ceremony, the first such awards night ever staged by Music NWT, took place in a gold-bedecked banquet hall with two stages and a live online broadcast.
The event was masterminded by Music NWT’s president, Trevor Sinclair, in the hope that a dedicated and, by Yellowknife’s standards, lavish annual awards night will help to give the territory’s industry a higher profile.
The winners, in the order they were announced:
Songwriting: Crook the Kid
Music Industry: Double D Studios
Venue: Great Northern Arts Festival
Live Performance: Kilo November
Music Video: Keith Robertson for Thin Ice, by Andrea Bettger