It was a humble and surprised Florent Vollant who received this year's award for the Best Music of Aboriginal Canada Recording on March 4 at the 30th annual Juno Awards for his CD Nipaiamianan.
Vollant, the eighth winner in this category, is an Innu singer/songwriter/producer best known for being one half of the Innu group Kashtin. Along with his cousin, Claude McKenzie, Kashtin received international recognition for its recordings, all done in the Innu language.
"I am so proud to win this Juno. I am proud for my people. This is the start of another journey for me," said Vollant.
He said Nipaiamianan, loosely translated, means the longest night of the brightest star. In other words, the winter solstice.
"Half the songs on the album are traditional Christmas songs and the other half are original interpretations of Innu songs that were only sung in the hunt camps at the time of the winter solstice. Over the decades, as Christianity became more prominent, people would come in from their hunt camps for Christmas and would sing the songs of the hunt camps along with Christmas carols."
Vollant comes from a musical family where music was always a part of his life.
"For as long as I can remember, the North has been a part of me, Tshiuetin, with its light, snow, ice and wind. I belong to an age-old people that come from the cold. The Elders and nature have left me the most beautiful legacy of all, that special light of the North and the incredible vastness of the Nitassinan.
"I turn to the Elders and they inspire these songs in me, songs that are an echo of Innu land. This is their legacy that I am sharing with you. I sing these songs in memory of the light-filled nights of my childhood and the spirit of the North that lives on in me."
Susan Aglukark's CD, Unsung Heroes, was nominated in the Aboriginal recording category, as well as two other categories: Best Producer-Chad Irschick for the songs "One Turn Deserves Another" and "Turn of the Century", and Best Recording Engineer-Chad Irschick for the songs "One Turn Deserves Another" and "Stand Up".
C-Weed for Run As One, Mishi Donovan for Journey Home, and John Gracie for Figure Love Out were the other nominees in the Aboriginal recording category.
For the past few years, people have questioned why the Best Music of Aboriginal Canada Recording category hasn't been split into two categories: traditional and contemporary music. The Juno's Best Music of Aboriginal Canada (BMAC) committee echoes these sentiments and is actively encouraging all Aboriginal people to submit their material for the 2002 Juno awards.
Curtis Jonnie, a.k.a. Aboriginal recording legend, Shingoose, co-chair of the BMAC committee, explained further.
"If we can get 40 submissions, the officials will split the category. We need 20 submissions to create a category."
Bruce Cockburn, who is the 2001 inductee into the Juno Hall of Fame was not even sure there should be a separate category for Aboriginal people at all.
"I don't really know, but in a way it's too bad we have to have a Native category at all and don't just have a bunch of human beings making music. That's what's kind of wrong with the whole concept, the whole competitive aspect. It serves a purpose though in terms of making the people who are at home watching TV aware of what's going on."