The four marching bands of the Nass Valley have teamed up into a supergroup and are heading south for the Grey Cup parade being held in Vancouver on Nov. 29.
Marching bands have been part of contemporary Nisga’a culture for more than 100 years and the Vancouver performance is being heralded as a celebration of this enduring tradition that has become woven into the fabric of the Nass Valley communities.
The troupe of more than 100 performers drawn from the bands representing the New Aiyanshi Harmonic Silver Band, the Gitwinksihlkw Brass Band, the Greenville Concert Band and the Gingolx Concert Band will join other performers in the parade being held the day before the Grey Cup.
According to Alvin Azak, a Gitwinksihlkw band council member and a member of that community’s band for decades, the ability of the community’s bands to join together is better since transportation improvements were made in the Nass Valley.
“The culture is such that whenever friends or family are celebrating or grieving we gather to celebrate or grieve. Each band from each community would travel and they would perform,” said Azak of the long history of collaboration between bands. “Now it’s easy, we join forces.”
The big band is being called Majag-aleehl Nisga’a or the “Flower of the Nass Valley” and symbolizes how the various communities are working as one, both in terms of government and industry, he said.
The Grey Cup parade performance will include one march song called the Great Call that Azak learned in the 1950s.
Some members are flying down to Vancouver while others are taking a bus through $50,000 being provided by the Nisga’a Lisims Government and other monies from companies.
“There are three distinct areas of Nisga’a culture and they have to do with relationships,” said Azak, adding that one of the areas has to do with spirituality, the other with community and the third with the environment.
“The band is about the relationship with each other,” said Azak.
In addition to the Grey Cup parade, the band will also hold several performances in Vancouver.