Montrealers band together to bring music to Attawapiskat

A benefit concert this weekend aims to provide instruments to the troubled Ontario First Nation.


The Painters

Eleven bands will be playing on two Montreal stages on Friday night, for a very good cause. The goal of the event is to collect musical instruments and raise funds to fill a community space 1,000 kilometres away in Attawapiskat.

The First Nations community in northern Ontario made headlines last spring after 11 people were admitted to hospital for having attempted suicide within a 24-hour period. Since the crisis, the town has become emblematic of the difficulties that First Nations communities often face in Canada.

The drive hopes to help the community by providing a creative outlet. “I can’t compare my situation to that of others, but music has been my personal saviour in hard times,” says event organizer Tara Desmond. “I believe it heals you.”

Desmond is looking for all types of instruments and recording equipment, with a focus on acoustic guitars. The admission fee will be devoted entirely to funding the project and purchasing additional materials.

Lowell Adkins
Lowell Adkins

“I’ve never done this kind of thing before; I’ve never done something that’s so directly involved,” says Desmond, who was inspired to take action after reading about Attawapiskat last year. A musician herself, Desmond opted to focus her efforts on getting instruments to Attawapiskat. “Young people in the community made a list of things that could help them out, like sport and workshop equipment,” she says.

Desmond has never been to Attawapiskat, but she plans to transport the instruments to the town herself. “I’m hopping some other people will come with me, and we can stay for a week to help people with the basics. I’ll try to the best of my ability to show off these instruments.” After leaving, she hopes that community members will make use of the resources she plans to leave behind in order to continue learning independently.

The Montreal event will feature groups playing 20-minute sets of jazz, pop and rock at Mile End concert venue la Sala Rossa, namely Alexander Moskos, Blue Odeur, the Painters, Maggy France, Wreckage With Stick, Inland Island, Carla Sagan, Lowell Adkins, Little Fire, Nag, Gashrat, James Watts and Travis Cannon.

“I have a lot of friends in so many different bands,” says Desmond. “The more we come together as a community, the more we have the ability to make a difference.”

While Desmond organized the event, she is not a one-woman army. “It’s not just me now. Working with friends and building your community is a real way to make a difference.”

It’s this community-building aspect that Desmond hopes the instruments inspire in Attawapiskat. “Music gives you goals, and most importantly it gives you ways to connect with other people around you.” ■

The Attawapiskat Guitar Drive & Fundraiser is happening at la Sala Rossa (4848 St-Laurent) on Friday, Jan. 13, 8 p.m., $10 suggested donation.

Those who can’t attend the event can still contribute to the drive by contacting Tara Desmond at