Northern Cree celebrates full ownership of latest album
The sounds from the Northern Cree drum has spanned more than four decades and 49 albums but the group’s latest release Ôskimacîtahowin: A New Beginning is completely owned by the artists.
Steve Wood, who is nehiyaw from Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta, is the group’s co-founder and leader and said it’s exciting that the group owns its masters, meaning the rights to their music. He said in the past, a large percentage of revenue went to the record label and publishing company.
“Now, it’s going to the people that created the music and the people that performed the music and back into our communities,” said Wood, 61.
He said the group, which has earned nine Grammy nominations, can expect money from all licensing ventures from this latest project. Wood said he hopes that means more First Nations singers and drummers can focus on their art.
Wood is currently the vice-principal of a junior high school and said he has enjoyed the 28 years he’s spent as an educator but would like to see other First Nations artists have options.
“We have a duty to open doors for our young people,” said Wood.
For this project, Northern Cree tapped into grants offered by the Canada Council for the Arts.
The new album, released Oct. 20, was produced by The Halluci Nation, a renowned electric powwow duo. Usually their albums are recorded live at powwows, but this time they had three days of recording in-studio at the National Music Centre in Calgary and could perfect their work.
Wood said this album was special to him because it’s the first time he worked with that level of production and the quality shows.
He said it’s also important to know someone who knows the industry, and he turned to Alan Greyeyes.
Greyeyes, who is Anishinaabe from Peguis First Nation in Manitoba and works for a project management company, helped Wood understand how master rights worked and the money he was losing by not owning those rights.
Greyeyes said he would like to see the powwow trail supported through grants, like Canadian folk festivals. He said it’s empowering for him when he can support Indigenous artists.
“I think as an Indigenous music community, it’s important to build our own,” said Greyeyes.