When the Juno Awards, Canada’s leading music industry celebration, take place in Regina on April 21, Sechelt musician Janet Panic will be there with family and friends. She’s glad she “smoked through,” in her own words, to be nominated in the category of Best Aboriginal Album of the year for her indie recording, Samples.
The process had been lengthy, but fruitful. Panic had just received another honour at the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards, so felt the confidence to submit her entry to the Junos as an independent musician.
The nominating committee asked a lot of questions: what was the Aboriginal content? Did it include Aboriginal musicians or First Nations language? Panic, who is proud of her Métis background, considered these questions deeply and wrote back her thoughts on being a Métis in Canada in an essay.
“It’s not a racial category,” she told them. “It’s a cultural category — a style of music. You don’t have to be black to sing the blues.”
Identifying with her Métis background means walking the line between Aboriginal and white culture, she points out. Growing up, her family did not live on a reserve. They moved around, following her father’s work. It seemed there was no community for Métis when in fact, she found out later, that many of her friends were Métis; it just wasn’t obvious.
The essay seems to have worked for the Juno committee and it also gave Panic some thoughts about her role.
“When you fill out all those forms for grant opportunities, it makes you think. You think about where you’re going with music and it gives you clarity,” she said. The announcement was issued on Feb. 19 that she was a contender.
“All the blood drained out of my body,” she described, “and I got that funny rush!”
Samples is a collection of songs from former times and former albums that Panic had gathered to give to folk music festival producers before being booked on that circuit. She released it as an album when she discovered that it was becoming popular. It uses the talents of five different producers over a period of time, including Juno award-winning aboriginal producer Derek Miller and Jeff Dawson, producer, songwriter and engineer. One of her favourites on the collection is Sweet Music.
“It tells about the long journey to get to where I am now,” she said.
Panic started her musical career in 1995 with a punk band and has gone solo since 1997.
Her mother, Norma Pruden, has her own favourite: Out on a Limb. The lyrics refer to the great support the singer has had from her mother and family. “The first time I heard it, I cried,” said Pruden, who also enjoys playing music.
Although Samples is the album up for an award, Panic will be releasing her latest, Most of What Follows is True, 10 more of her original compositions including one in French which she speaks fluently. Though she will tour extensively, fans on the Sunshine Coast will be able to attend a CD launch party closer to her home at a later date.
Meanwhile you can tune in to her radio show (106.3 FM in Vancouver) weekdays on Voices Radio that broadcasts across Canada and around the world on satellite. As music supervisor, one of her favourites is Celebrity Spins in which Canadian celebrities pick songs and say what inspired them about the music. It allows Panic to interview a huge range of Canada’s musicians from Carol Pope to the Rodeo Kings. You can hear a sample of her tunes and link with the radio programme at www.janetpanic.com.