Whether it’s live or on Memorex, Indigenous Day Live will be back on television on Sunday.
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Indigenous Day Live
• APTN, APTN Lumi
• Sunday, 8 p.m.
• Encore presentation Monday, 2:30 p.m.
Last year’s edition of APTN’s annual celebration of Indigenous performers was cancelled, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. To get the 2021 show on the air (Sunday, 8 p.m., APTN), producers have had to overcome a host of obstacles, especially the live aspect of the show that gives it its name.
The show has been a live telecast since it began in 2007; it takes place on or near National Indigenous Peoples Day, which coincides with the summer solstice, June 21.
The Forks usually hosts the show, with a second stage set up elsewhere in Canada. A live show anywhere in Canada this month is an impossibility, forcing the show’s producers to find a Plan B.
One scenario was to telecast from two live stages, Winnipeg and Halifax, without audiences, but health regulations prevented that scaled-down approach, says Vanessa Loewen, the show’s executive producer.
That meant pre-recording the show in March and April, and to keep the process as safe as possible, five places were chosen across Canada to film artists. Winnipeg’s West End Cultural Centre, which has become a popular soundstage for video productions over the past year, was one of the locations. Venues in Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Dartmouth, N.S. were also used.
"We all still wanted a celebration and a recognition of the day," Loewen says. "Instead of having a bunch of folks from Western Canada fly into Winnipeg to do their sets and have other folks fly into Halifax to do their sets, we decided to take stages to venues where we had the highest concentration of artists who didn’t have to travel.
"It was definitely a challenge."
Loewen says the costs of the 2021 show haven’t been added up yet, but believes the bottom line will be similar to producing the live event. It required hiring film and recording crews in the five cities and the crew had weeks to edit the footage, but she says there are essential items involved with telecasting a live event that APTN didn’t have to pay for this year.
"When we’re doing it live, we’re paying for film trucks and other live elements that are very costly," she says. "Doing live video is more expensive in terms of setup on the day and more robust rather than going in with cameras and shooting in a closed environment."
The result is a 3 1/2-hour show that includes 26 artists from a wide variety of genres and backgrounds. Indigenous Day Live will also recognize the 25th anniversary of the founding of National Indigenous Peoples Day and of Manitoba 150, which was going to be a part of the 2020 show.
"I’m a Métis person from Manitoba and three other of our key crew are, so it was very important to us to have the recognition of our contribution to the founding of the province," Loewen says.
Several Manitoba artists will be part of the telecast, including Winnipeg DJ Boogey the Beat, singers Renée Lamoureux, Mattmac, Jerry Sereda, Sol James, former Manitoban singer-songwriter Iskwe and the Ivan Flett Memorial Dancers, a trio who combine traditional Métis jigging with hip-hop.
The timing of Indigenous Day Live couldn’t have been better for Sereda, a Métis country singer who is releasing his new album, Classic Country Couple, the day after performing on Indigenous Day Live.
"It just seemed to connect all the dots and it was a very welcome and pleasant twist of fate that allowed us to take this project and introduce it first and foremost through an Indigenous platform to an Indigenous audience," Sereda says. "I like to think when you have a positive project and you have positive people working together, things just have a way to find a positive light."
Sereda and his band recorded their part of the show in March at the WECC; he recalls the extensive safety precautions everyone followed.
"Even for the band, masks were worn right until, ‘Ready, set, camera,’ and then as soon as the camera stopped, the masks went right back on," he says.
Sereda is from Dauphin but during the pandemic he has split his time between Alberta and Manitoba, travelling back here to visit family when restrictions allow. He often spends his summers with family on Matheson Island, a community in Lake Winnipeg that is accessible in summer only by cable ferry or by boat.
He first fit his music around his teaching career, releasing albums in 2009 and 2011. He took time off in 2013 and 2014 to earn a masters degree in education in 2013, playing music in his spare time, but a couple of years later Sereda decided to put the classroom on the back-burner.
The result is his 2019 record Don’t Mind If I Do, which recently won the Country Album of the Year from the fledgling Summer Solstice Indigenous Music Awards, and his new album.
"It was a tough decision, but it’s one that I’m happy I’ve made, although my mind still goes back to all my colleagues who are still teaching right now," he says. "It’s scary and confusing times for a lot of the students, and I’m hoping they are able to find their own creative outlets for music, for arts, for dance, for sports, something they can cling to in these tough times."
Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.