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September 27, 2010

The Aqpik Jam brings Kashtin back together after 12 years

By Martine Dufour

Kashtin at the Aqpik Jam 2010 © Isabelle Dubois

Kashtin at the Aqpik Jam 2010
© Isabelle Dubois

© Isabelle Dubois

Kashtin, the legendary Innu duo considered to be the most commercially successful First Nations musical group of all time, got back together for an exclusive concert at the opening of the Aqpik Jam in Kuujjuaq on August 10. It was an emotional show for a nostalgic audience that was won over before the first note.

Since the group disbanded in 1998, Claude McKenzie and Florent Vollant have both made several appearances at the Aqpik Jam, but separately and in different years. Following an invitation to attend this summer’s 15th edition of Nunavik’s largest music festival, Florent Vollant decided to ask Claude McKenzie to join him. “Johnny Adams suggested that I invite some friends to play with me. When I told him I planned to ask Claude, who’s always remained a close friend, the idea of a Kashtin reunion really took hold.”

It was nearly a first. The famous duo hadn’t performed together in 12 years, but Florent and Claude played their very first reunion show two days before their Aqpik Jam appearance, at the Innu Nikamu music festival in Maliotenam, the reserve that both musicians come from. Kashtin then flew to Kuujjuaq, where they played for a crowd of longtime fans, on Florent’s birthday. “What an amazing present,” he said.

“Kuujjuaq is an important place in Kashtin’s history,” says Florent. “I’m not just saying that to flatter the people there. We played one of our most unforgettable shows in Kuujjuaq, in 1995. The far north is a very emotional place for us and we feel very close to the spirit of the region. It was really moving for us to see that the Inuit liked our music, and that the children in the Kuujjuaq audience were singing along. That concert was very intense. Something very special happened that day.”

Was the August 10 reunion a new beginning for Kashtin? Not necessarily. The onstage reunion happened without much planning, almost spontaneously. Now that they’ve gone back home, the two friends are back into their own projects and not worrying too much about the future. Would they come back to Kuujjuaq? “Any time!” Florent exclaimed.