The Yellowknives Dene Drummers, Ted Wesley and Norm Glowach are the first three occupants of a newly created NWT musicians’ hall of fame.
An induction ceremony was held during Saturday’s inaugural NWT Music Awards at Yellowknife’s Explorer Hotel, a gala that also honoured award winners in 10 categories.
The Yellowknives Dene Drummers, first to enter the hall of fame, were hailed as “cultural icons and leaders” whose presence at many events offers an important introduction to the First Nation’s culture for visitors and newcomers.
Cody Drygeese, who accepted the induction on behalf of the drummers, described being taught to drum by his father.
“He was my first teacher … and I hope he’s as proud of this award as I am,” he said.
The drummer hopes that moving forward, this award helps maintain awareness that Yellowknife is on traditional lands and the meaning that drumming has for the Yellowknives Dene First Nations.
“In the past, drumming has always been a way for people to gather because we were nomadic people, we were always travelling all over the land following the caribou, following our food. Drumming and drum dances have always been our way of celebrating each other, seeing each other again after six months of being away from each other and celebrating that we’re all here again together.
“Our ancestors were strong people. They survived wars, pandemics, and colonialism. We’re strong, and we’re still here, and we’re happy to continue celebrating this practice with each other and to share with the people who live here in Yellowknife.”
Juno-nominated musician Ted Wesley, a co-founder of Folk on the Rocks who passed away last December, was the second inductee.
Heather Pritchard, Ted’s sister-in-law, accepted the award on his behalf.
Pritchard said: “Ted’s first reaction to this would have been: ‘Why me? There are so many other people that are so good.’ But we know why him, and I think with his passing in December, it was time for them to recognize him.”
Pritchard plans on taking the award to his wife, Leslie, who she says is thrilled by the recognition of her late husband, who moved north to work at the Discovery gold mine in the 1960s before becoming the first musician in the NWT to be signed by a major record label in 1972.
His third album, North of Canada, sold more than 70,000 copies and earned him a Juno nomination for country male vocalist of the year in 1977.
More: Musicians of the Midnight Sun explores Ted Wesley’s career
“We’ve been doing a number of things to honour Ted,” Pritchard told Cabin Radio.
“From family gatherings to listening to his music and finding old recordings of him, this is just a great way to continue to honour him.”
Norm Glowach was the final inductee of the evening, an honour that reflected decades of devotion to the music industry in the Northwest Territories.
Glowach, a member of the Priscilla’s Revenge blues-rock band for the past 15 years, has almost a dozen albums and some 350 compositions to his name while also providing his services as an audio engineer.
He performed at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, played in front of the late Queen Elizabeth II and recently brought his family history to the Yellowknife stage.
“I never really got into this business for awards, it’s the joy of playing music and seeing people smile and working with artists and helping them create,” he told Cabin Radio.
“The big thing here is that Music NWT is doing a wonderful thing for the community, both the music community and the overall community in the North.
“There’s no money for musicians, so it’s important that things like this give people awards to make them feel it’s worth it. This is something that sadly has been lacking, but we have Music NWT now and I hope they persist.”