ECMA Indigenous Stage a chance for musical artists to shine

Gary Sappier from Tobique First Nation, N.B. is one of four artists performing at the ECMA Indigenous Stage in Halifax May 3/Photo contributed by Gary Sappier

Gary Sappier considers the Indigenous Stage at the East Coast Music Awards Festival a high-class event where musicians like himself can network with industry representatives.

“This is like a high profile event and you have to be industry ready,” Sappier, 49, said. “This is one of the events where you come to shine.”

Sappier, who isn’t nominated for an ECMA award this year, is one of five acts performing at this year’s Indigenous Stage with the ECMA festival. The other four acts include all of the nominees for the 2018 ECMA Indigenous Artist of the Year.

“It’s good for up and coming artists as well as established artists to perform at a high-class event,” he added.

The Indigenous Stage takes place on Thursday evening (May 3) at the Carleton Music Bar and Grill on Argyle Street in Halifax. The event is sponsored by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.

Indigenous Stage chance to network with buyers

The annual music festival and conference attracts approximately 150 buyers from across Canada and around the world who have a keen interest in various cultures, explained Andree Gracie, manager of partnerships with the ECMAs.

“For Indigenous artists, this opportunity to have their music seen with a focus on that night where they have a chance to get national and international festival bookings is amazing,” Gracie said.

“City Natives is a great example of that,” Gracie added. “They’ve gone on, because of this stage, to be discovered by many people that have booked them for various shows. So it works.”

Gracie said music supervisors also attend showcases like the Indigenous Stage looking for new music to feature in film and television productions.

“So that’s a huge economic generator for artists today is to have their music placed in film and TV,” Gracie said.

“It’s not just a public showing. It’s real business so they have the opportunity with this stage and their presence at the ECMAs to do music business,” she added.

“Beyond grateful for the opportunity” – Carolina East

Carolina East (her stage name), who is nominated for her first ECMA award, says she’s grateful to be invited to perform at this year’s Indigenous Stage. The country music singer/songwriter is Mi’kmaq with the Qalipu First Nation, N.L.

Carolina East is nominated for an East Coast Music Award in the Indigenous Recording of the Year category/Photo courtesy of Carolina East

“I looked at the roster of people that are playing on that stage and I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity to say that I’ve shared the stage with them,” she said. “A lot of these musicians, I’ve admired for a long time.”

For Carolina East, her performance at the Indigenous Stage Thursday evening kicks off a month of other performances across the country. The 35-year-old will be taking part in Canadian Music week in Toronto and the Indigenous Music Awards in Winnipeg later this month.

“Every time I get up on the stage, what I want to do is make sure that people really have an experience and feel all the feelings that I’m feeling at the time,” she said. “My biggest thing and my biggest goal is to have people walk away wanting to hear more.”

Sappier, who is Wolastoqew from Tobique First Nation, N.B., says he takes pride in sharing the same stage with his musical peers.

“You’re kind of representing your community and you’re also representing your province. It’s always a feel good event,” Sappier said.

“The competition is getting stiffer each year. It’s always good to network and to meet other acts.”

The Indigenous Stage begins at 10:30 p.m. on Thursday (May 3) at the Carleton Music Bar and Grill, 1685 Argyle Street in Halifax.


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About Maureen Googoo 196 Articles
Maureen Googoo is an award-winning journalist from Indian Brook First Nation (Sipekne'katik) in Nova Scotia. She has worked in news for 30 years for media outlets such as CBC Radio, the Chronicle-Herald and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. Maureen has an arts degree in political science from Saint Mary's University in Halifax, a journalism degree from Ryerson University in Toronto and a Masters degree in journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City.