Crystal Shawanda: Aboriginal Music Award Winner

By Morgan O’Neal

Apparently, 26-year-old Crystal Shawanda, born on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, was quite devastated at age 11 when she failed to win a singing contest. That she did not then and there abandon her stalled career has been very good for both Crystal and her many fans. Winning all five awards that she was nominated for was enough to make her the big winner at the10th Annual Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards held at Toronto’s Rogers Center on November 28, 2008. Shawanda, who has lived in Nashville for the past seven years, won awards for Best Female Artist, Best Single, Best Video, Best Country Album, and Album of the Year. “I didn’t have any expectations,” she said. “I was just more excited I was able to sing [as one of the show’s performers].” Country music still remains a bit humble.

What does one do with five music awards? “I’m going to take them home and enjoy them for a while,” Shawanda said. She did suggest that she might donate her awards to a local school in her hometown where they could be displayed and possibly inspire other aboriginal youth to aim for greatness. For now, the talented Ontarian woman from Wikwemikong should be allowed to savor the flavor of victory on a grand scale.

Shawanda was thrilled to win all her CAMAs the same evening that Canadian legend Buffy Sainte-Marie was honored with the Lifetime Contribution to Aboriginal Music Award. “Buffy Sainte-Marie was a huge mentor for me, musically and style-wise,” said Shawanda. Sainte-Marie, who was born in Saskatchewan but now lives in Hawaii, was understandably excited about her award. “All of you have been such an inspiration to me throughout my life,” Sainte-Marie told the crowd during her acceptance speech. “I’ve had the rare privilege of being able to . . . come into your communities. And you guys are the ones who keep showing up in my songs. And I thank you forever and ever and ever for that.” Receiving the award at an event that is part of the Canadian Aboriginal Festival made it even more appealing. Besides the music awards show, the annual Toronto event includes a pow wow and Native musical acts, workshops, teachings, fashion shows, and displays of handicrafts and arts.

Shawanda was also honored for her work on her latest CD titled Dawn of a New Day (which is also the meaning of Shawanda in Ojibwe). Her CD debuted at No. 2 on the Soundscan Top Country Albums chart in Canada, and the first single “You Can Let Go” is currently in high rotation on country radio stations across North America. “We worked on [this CD] for two years,” she said. “I’m really pleased we took our time with it.”

Crystal Shawanda is scheduled to appear on Great American Country’s Grand Old Opry Live television show, then she goes on the road with the Paisley Party Tour. Shawanda is also a nominee for the upcoming Canadian Radio Music Awards presented by Mississauga Community Radio and Bebamikawe Studios. To learn more about Crystal Shawanda, visit her at MySpace here.