While we were all tuning in from home, one Manitoban got to see the biggest night of music in Las Vegas up close.
Acclaimed opera and classical artist Rhonda Head, from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation in northern Manitoba, was in attendance for the 64th Annual Grammy Awards Sunday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Head, known for her interpretations of classic standards like “Ave Maria” in the Cree language, is a member of the Recording Academy, the organization that nominates and rewards artists each year.
“I’ve been an Academy member for a few years, and as an Academy member, we’re allowed to submit (to be considered for) a Grammy award, but we’re also allowed to vote, so I voted for several years for winners and nominees,” she told 680 CJOB.
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Head is also the host of a web series called Indigenous Superstars and a strong advocate for fellow Indigenous artists. She had her own viral moment ahead of the ceremony, as a photo of her group holding an “All Children Matter” flag on the red carpet racked up thousands of views on social media.
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She also got the opportunity to sing at an exclusive post-award party, though her performance wasn’t the most memorable aspect.
“We were invited to a VIP party at the Westgate (resort), Barry Manilow’s penthouse suite,” Head said.
“The Grammy winners were there, the people who worked at the Grammys were there. There were producers and musicians. It was really a great networking party. We were all still there in our robes, because it was a formal event.
“Towards the end of the night, I was walking by the pool and I slipped and fell in the pool with my dress on. It was so hilarious. I was embarrassed at the time… The only thing that got hurt, it’s my ego, but I got over it and we just laughed about it.
Head said she remains passionate about bringing Indigenous languages into a style of music known primarily to be sung in European Romance languages.
“When I was studying languages, Italian, French and Latin, I kind of put my finger on it and thought ‘wait a minute’.
“I’m sure you know the history of residential schools. My parents weren’t allowed to speak their language and they never shared it with me, so I decided to try and start putting the Cree language into an opera aria and it worked. It fits perfectly.
“When I started learning how to translate the scream into classic songs, my tongue started coming back to me, because I had to learn the language to sing it.”
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