Arts & Entertainment

Indigenous album brings Kamloops band international attention

 | October 26, 2020

Margit Sky Project plans to play First Nations reserve tour when possible

Bandura and Gossage. Photo supplied

A Kamloops-based musical duo is receiving international attention from their most recent album. 

The Margit Sky Project, made up of Margit Gossage and Rod Bandura (whose First Nations name is Little Sky, making their name) released For The People this year after receiving a grant from the First Peoples’ Cultural Council. 

While the album is new, the songs were written in the 1990’s by Bandura and his friend, Terrence Armstrong. 

“It was him and I that wrote these songs,” Bandura said. “He has since passed away.” 

Gossage said it was time that people heard the stories shared in the music. 

“After Terrence passed we thought it was time to bring these songs out of the cave and get them back out there. 

“Especially with everything that’s going on with Wet’suwet’en, land claims, reconciliation, racism, abuse and residential schools,” Gossage said. “It [the album] covers everything. And not getting any younger, [we wanted to] get the word out.” 

The songs, 10 in total, cover all kinds of important issues faced by Indigenous peoples, as well as highlight Indigenous culture. 

Bandura and his family have strong connections to their Indigenous culture. After his mother passed away his sister, Rhonda Larrabee, dug into their history. She uncovered their mother had been taken to a residential school in Kamloops after her parents died, where she was punished for speaking Halq’eméylem, their language. 

Since then Larrabee has learned her grandparents and mother were some of the last living members of the Qayqayt First Nation in New Westminster, B.C., and has revived the nation after gaining her Indian Status Card and being elected chief. 

The Qayqayt now have around 100 documented members, have established fishing rights and are working to reestablish a reserve after the previous land base was sold by the federal government.

Gossage and Bandura recorded the album with Scott Skulmolski, a Kamloops bass player, and Aaron Anderson, a part-Iroquois drummer. The album was produced by Doug Terry and recorded in Kamloops.

“Everything just fell right into place during the recording,” Gossage said. “It was so smooth.”

After printing was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic the album arrived and one of Gossage’s children put together a video. After sharing it on a few Indiegnous Facebook pages they received an email from the Indigenous Music Countdown. 

The weekly countdown is the longest running Indigenous music chart and features music from all genres and countries.

“They found us, they asked us, and next thing we knew we’re at number 40,” Gossage said. “And 16 weeks later we made it to number one, we were pretty excited.” 

Soon after they began to be played abroad by stations in England, Scotland, Ireland, Austria and Italy.

She said the chart became their excitement this summer; last year they played 117 shows and played only a fraction this year due to the pandemic. 

They had planned a tour of B.C. First Nations reserves prior to the pandemic which was cancelled, but they played weekly at an Indigenous Farmers; Market this summer and plan to reschedule the tour when possible. 

“Our plan was to tour the reservations…and give out some of these CDs to band members that they can share with the youth to show that there’s hope,” Gossage said. “We will definitely do that when we can, that is our first priority.”

It’s not the first success for the couple. Before the Margit Sky Project, Bandura and Armstrong were part of an Indiegnous band called Waskesu which toured and played for prime ministers and at the Commonwealth Games and frequently on Much Music. 

Gossage is also a long time musician, getting her start playing in Sun Peaks. 

“My first gig ever was the Sun Peaks Fondue, I played there for 20 years…Sun Peaks has been a huge part of my life and Rod and I opened for Kevion Costner, Burton Cummings and Trooper up there.”

For The People can be purchased at Lone Wolf Gallery in Sun Peaks, online or streamed on Spotify.