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Band World Folk


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"Asani and friends weave tapestry of incredible sounds"

As much as artists, engineers and producers would love to automaticallydial up the tone for a recording session,the personalities involved largely dictate the emotional aura that hangs in a studio.

Tension is not necessarily negative when it comes to the creative process, but there was no evidence of anything but co-operation and mutual artistic admiration this week at Homestead Recorders, where a tapestry of incredible sounds is being captured.

The west-end studio, a part of this community's scene for almost 30 years, is where proprietor and engineer Barry Allen is playing host to the critically acclaimed aboriginal vocal trio Asani, and renowned percussionsits Ed Mann and Bruce Aitken.

While working on a followup dis to their 2005 debut recording 'Rattle and Drum' - nominated for 11 music awards across North America - Asani's Sarah Pocklington, Debbie Houle and Sherryl Sewepagaham met the two percussionists last sprng in Cape Breton. "Bruce is one of the organizers of the Capte Breton International Drum Festival and he invited us to perform there. Ed was performing as well, and we all talked at length about music and politics," Pocklington syas. "At some point, Ed threw out the idea of us working together."

Mann's resume is bound around 11 years of working closely with Frank Zappa in the studio and on the road. His credits with the legendary late guitarist and composer inlcude 'Joe's Garage, Sheik Yerbouti, The Man From Utopia and the Zappa and the London Symphony Orchestra sessions'. Along with releasing 5 solo discs, Mann's mallet work on vibes and marimba, and a variety of percussive instruments, has given him opportunities to work ont he road or in the studio with Andy Summers, Rickie Lee Jones, Los Lobos, Bill Bruford and Kenny Loggins.

"Ed has an indigenous heart," says Pocklington. "He is basically about poeple, is anti-oppression and believes everyone has a voice that should be heard."

Asani has been road testing some of the material prior to the sessions and the peices evolved significantly, said Sewepagaham.

"There's such a blend of influences in some of the things we're doing. One piece is sung in Cree, has a reggae feel and includes some throat singing. 'Northern Lights' is a song that sounds angelic and Ed added a track where he was bowing his vibes. Lyrically, there are political and ecological elements referenced."

Asani hopes to release the album in the fall. They, Mann and Aitken expect to tour as far abroad as Australia.

By Peter North - Edmonton Journal, January 2008

"Music of Oppression, Music of Resistance"

“Rez Sister” is a call for unity and an expression of personal human strength in the face of adversity and oppression..The song grows increasingly gorgeous as it expands into the stratosphere. “Rez Sister” passionately stands beside Billie Holiday singing “Strange Fruit”, Marian Anderson at the Washington Monument in 1963, and Aretha Franklin demanding “Respect” . Asani address what’s goin’ on with their sisters living in the city and offer promise that a change is gonna’ come. They are starwalkers of the female persuasion. - Qoute taken from published paper by musicologist Rick Hesch, May 2006

"Smithsonian folkwaysAlive!"

In the summer of 2006, Asani appeared at the John F Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts in Washington DC in a celebration of folkwaysAlive!, the partnership between the University of Alberta and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Their two-week sojourn in Washington also included multiple performances as guests of the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

“Asani continues to secure an ever-growing audience with the power of their performance and their respect for ancient traditions. Their creative impulse to explore new expressions of their personal and cultural experience adds a fresh and inspiring voice to the traditional sounds of their communities. We are always delighted to involve Asani in activities at folkwaysAlive!”

Regula Burckhardt Qureshi, Director, Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology and folkwaysAlive!, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.

- Regula Burckhardt Qureshi, 2006

"Smithsonian Folklife Festival Director"

“You were a highlight of this festival for me. I know your future will be bright.”

Diana Parker - Diana Parker, 2006


"Rattle and Drum", released in January 2005
"Listen", release date TBA (2009)

Many Featured songs on compilations or other artist's CD's including:

"Indian Rezervation Blues and More" (2009), DixieFrog
"AB2: Alberta's Playlist" (TBR 2009), Alberta Foundation for the Arts.
"Sparkle" (2008), Andrea Menard
"Little Hawk" (2007), Little Hawk
"Alberta: Wild Roses, Northern Lights" (2006), Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
Many others...



Asani (“rock” in the Cree language), an Edmonton based contemporary Aboriginal women’s vocal trio has been captivating audiences with their harmonies, vocal artistry and rhythmic style since 2001.

Asani’s music is a reflection of where they come from and who they are. It is a celebration of their musical and cultural roots within a contemporary context. Carrying with them the traditional influences of First Nations and Metis music accompanied by drums and rattles, their songs resonate with their own blend of traditional vocals infused with the sounds of jazz, folk and blues.

Their unique blend of rhythms based on traditional Cree/Metis musical styles combined with a variety of those found in other music traditions puts Asani in a category all their own. That these unique patterns are incorporated into both their instrumentation as well as their various vocal parts allows Asani to offer up musical fare that is vocally and percussively, rich, beautiful and compelling. Asani’s repertoire is mainly comprised of original compositions in Woodland Cree and English.

Asani’s debut album Rattle and Drum (2005) was nominated for a total of 11 music awards including a 2006 Juno nomination for Aboriginal Recording of the Year. It won the Canadian Aboriginal Music Award for Best Female Traditional/Cultural Roots Album in 2005, and has received many enthusiastic reviews.

Their follow-up CD Listen , released October 2009, continues to celebrate Asani’s passion for vocal creativity while expanding on the interplay between rhythm, texture, harmony and instrumentation. Listen features legendary percussionist and sound guru Ed Mann (Frank Zappa), who both produces and performs with the group, and drummer extraordinaire Bruce Aitken (Founder of the Cape Breton International Drum Festival). The results have lifted Asani’s art to a dynamic new level.

Asani performs frequently in Canada as well as around the world, and has composed and performed musical soundtracks for documentaries, film and television. Having performed at both Carnegie Hall, New York and the Kennedy Centre in Washington, D.C. Asani is currently garnering national acclaim for their unique arrangement of “O Canada” sung in English, French and Cree.

Debbie Houle (lead vocals, harmony, drum and rattle) is Cree from the Elizabeth Metis Settlement. She was born in Edmonton and was raised in the Elizabeth Metis Settlement in Northeast Alberta. She has been singing since the age of five and studied voice at the Grant MacEwan Community College in Edmonton, Alberta. Debbie works as a community builder for the Wicihitowin: Circle of Shared Responsibility and Stewardship as part of the Urban Aboriginal Strategy.

Sarah Pocklington (Lead vocals, harmony, drum and rattle) is Cree Metis and graduated from the vocal program at Grant MacEwan Community College, has a B.A. in English/Anthropology, a Masters Degree in Native Studies and is currently working towards a PhD in Education Policy Studies with a focus on contemporary Aboriginal music. She has also taken courses in dance, drama and percussion. Sarah has been teaching, developing courses, and conducting workshops in the field of Native Studies for the past 18 years. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Educational Policy Studies with the University of Alberta.

Sherryl Sewepagaham (Lead vocals, harmony, drum and rattle) is from the Little Red River Cree Nation in northern Alberta. She began singing since a young age and went on to study classical voice and piano at the Alberta College Conservatory of Music in Edmonton and Douglas College in New Westminster, BC. She has completed her Bachelor of Education degree in Elementary (Music). Sherryl is currently an elementary music teacher and conductor of the Aboriginal children’s choir, Awasisak Nikamowak.