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It is an exciting time for Saskatoon based band, Chester Knight and the Wind. By the end of 1999 the band was recognized as one of the best Aboriginal bands in Canada. Chester Knight and the Wind won the Prairie Music Awards in Winnipeg in late fall and were then honored in Toronto at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards in December, as best group. Their CD Falling Down is gaining International recognition as listeners everywhere are enjoying the band's unique blend of traditional and contemporary sounds.
Along with Chester Knight, Falling Down was recorded with the help of brother Vernon Knight, his sister Thelma, Hal Schrenk, Brent Taylor, Don Froese and Elder Cy Standing.
When rumors began to circulate about the second Juno nomination, Chester felt that there was strong competition for the nomination and for winning the Juno. He noted the talents of Vern Cheechoo and felt that Vern had a good chance of winning a Juno. He heard about the nomination over the internet, and On March 12, 2000 Chester Knight and the Wind won the Juno award for the CD Falling Down as best Aboriginal music recording.
The win was a real thrill and Chester once again wanted to thank the Kookumawuk and the Mooshumawuk, his family and friends, the FSIN, the Saskatoon Tribal Council and the recording studio for their help and support along the way. He said it was wonderful to share the moment with his brother Vernon and the group of friends that made the trip to Toronto for the Juno awards.
Much of the music in Falling Down and in the first album Freedom, reflects the personal experiences of Chester Knight who wrote the lyrics and music. The songs reveal a journey through hard times and heartache. Chester talked about the difficult times he had as a youth growing up in Saskatchewan and he stated that; "it is a little hard to believe that good things actually can happen." He related that about 95% of First Nations people are experiencing or have experienced hard times in their lives. When Chester and his siblings were in school, racism, lack of culturally relevant curriculum and the scarcity of positive role models influenced how he viewed himself and his life. "There were very few First Nations people in positions of power in society, there were no ceremonies and no positive reinforcement." He felt that, "there was no place for Chester Knight in this world."
"The only places where you felt accepted were the Barry, the Baldwin and the Albany." A close listen to the traditional sounds of the drum and the heart wrenching lyrics in Roll on Thunder from their first CD Freedom, reflects the sense of community in that setting. Chester said that he struggled to leave that life style when he was in his twenties. Although he would never drink in front of parents and credits them with influencing his decision to quit drinking, he says that it was his uncle Danny Musqua that really made a difference in his life. He taught Chester about fasting and the traditional ways to begin his healing journey. He learned that to quit addictions, you must rise above your own needs and do it for your family and for others. Danny Musqua taught him
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Chester discussed the difference between "instant gratification and instant solutions prevalent in today's fast paced society and the traditional world of fasting and spirituality." He explained that "traditional teachings reveal the disciplines of love, disciplines of caring and disciplines of respect.
Mainstream society does not teach these as actual disciplines. They see them only as desires and emotions, and are not taught how to develop and practice them.
I learned that giving is first a physical thing, it's unconditional. To give is to be perfect ... the act of giving trains us to become good human beings."
This idea relates to his experiences in developing his musical talents. Chester feels that when he puts his thoughts, emotions and experiences to music, he is taking a huge risk. This is an act of giving because he and the band are giving of themselves to others, which may result in acceptance or rejection.
The Juno winning CD Falling Down is the chronology of a personal journey. The album reflects much of Chester Knight's efforts to become a better person. Chester feels that "in trying - you fall down. It's about wishing you would never make mistakes, never get angry and never say things that you would regret. The lyrics are about trying to make amends and about trying to make things right." The lyrics tell a story and so does the music. He explained that the relationship between the words and the music bring into being something unique and whole. The chants are intrinsic to the message, with the Saulteaux chants "adding the bounce that creates meaning, and the Cree chants that portray history and the things learned over time."
On a lighter note, the Juno win has meant more recognition and a financial situation that has lightened a little. Chester explained that "the win is only one thing in the life of the band ... this kind of thing is fleeting." He said the band must continue to work hard to promote their music. The CD Falling Down was released in the States on May 12 through Sound of America Records and it earned great reviews in Billboard Magazine. As part of their promotional plans, Chester Knight and the Wind are working on a website soon to be completed at www.chesterknight.com. Chester is also writing some music for a movie being made in the States and the group is already working on the next CD, Road Warrior. He explained that the title Road Warrior comes from looking at the world like it is indeed, a global village. "To me, being a true road warrior is having the ability to communicate with other cultures and to be respectful of the many diverse cultures all over the world. Like Don Quixote claimed, "you must always be `an impeccable warrior' because you never know when you are going to die."
Chester said that all the plans are a little scary, but he recalls advice from his brother Orville who said, "never let fear stop you." There are several confirmed concert dates ahead for this talented group of musicians. It is in performing where the band members are honing their craft. Chester pointed out that performing is exhilarating and it is where he visualizes the group's success. He feels that the microphone becomes, "the spiritual connection between myself and the audience."
Chester says that making connections in the music business is much easier than it used to be. He points to the more than 200 Aboriginal radio stations in Canada and the many more in the States that are ready and willing to promote new groups. He advises new musicians out there to spend some money making a good recording and to send demos out to all the Aboriginal media. "Develop your craft and remember that the first 10 songs you write are not going to be as good as the 90th song. The business has its ups and downs but it's a really good time to get involved and its only going to get better."
Chester Knight is a member of the Muskoday First Nation. Bass player Darryl Ross is from God's Lake Narrows, Manitoba. Lead guitar player Todd Duncan from Saskatoon and drummer Shea Geisbrecht from Whitebear First Nation joined the band in February.