Elaine Bomberry is overwhelmed by her own legacy of advocacy in support of Indigenous music, she told Candice Ryan of CFWE-FM during an interview at the Manito Ahbee Festival.
Bomberry, who was attending the Indigenous music conference and awards events last week in Winnipeg, pushed for the inclusion of an Indigenous album of the year Juno category, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary in March.
Buffy Sainte-Marie won the 25th anniversary award for her album Medicine Songs and dedicated the win to Bomberry for her work all those years ago.
“I really think that this Juno needs to live with Elaine Bomberry here in Vancouver. So, Elaine, this is for you, with many thanks from all of the Indigenous artists in Canada.”
It was a quarter century ago when Bomberry and musician Curtis Johnnie Shingoose were preparing to present to the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences who would decide whether the Indigenous category would be added to the Juno line-up.
Two days before the presentation, Saint-Marie phoned Bomberry offering her assistance. They got together over dinner at Sainte-Marie’s hotel room.
When they first met person to person “I did the fan thing. I brought my Buffy Sainte-Marie albums. Got her to sign them first. And then we sat down and got down to business,” said Bomberry.
Sainte-Marie had written this “beautiful, eloquent essay, speech on the importance of Indigenous music” comparing it to the Black music in the south in the 1930s and 1940s.
Sainte-Marie proposed talking strategy.
“‘Strategy or not’,” Bomberry told Sainte-Marie. “‘You’re the first person to walk into that boardroom.’ To me, she was the strategy.”
When they met with CARAS, they had 20 minutes to make their presentation. “They nicely kicked us out of the boardroom after.” Then 20 minutes later brought them back in and told them they had the Indigenous category, with a gag order to say nothing about it for six weeks.
“It was the most difficult six weeks of my life,” said Bomberry, adding she feels really proud to have been part of that.
“From that came all these other awards… I had no idea at the time that it was going to create such a movement and to really kick-start an industry in Canada and the United States,” Bomberry said.
As for the progress of Indigenous music, Bomberry said she feels like a proud aunty. “The kids got the message and the music is happening.
“It’s really cool for our people, you know, and to own that. It’s our voices. It’s our stories that are being shared. Not only in our community, but to the wider audiences out there.”
Bomberry’s shared some advice to those hoping to become part of that industry.
“Believe in your passion,” she said. “Do what you do because you love to do (it). Follow your heart. Don’t let money be your goal, ‘cause it’s not about money. It’s about sharing your voice and being true to yourself.”