Nominations for the Edmonton Arts Prizes are out, and the short list includes St. Albert’s own Latin singer-songwriter Cristian de la Luna.
The arts prizes are awarded in four categories: music, visual arts, books and films. The guitar slinging de la Luna is recognized for the simplicity of his folk-roots storytelling combined with Caribbean percussion and the jazzy warmth of brass instruments. In addition, he is a trilingual singer-songwriter fluent in Spanish, French and English.
“I got this call from Alberta Music and at first I didn’t understand what this nice lady was saying — that I could make $5,000 or $15,000. I said, ‘This is a scam,” said de la Luna laughing at the initial confusion.
The awards ceremony takes place on May 3 at the Westbury Theatre, Fringe Arts Barns where the overall winner of each prize will be announced. Each of the 12 artists nominated will receive an award with $15,000 going to the primary winner in each category and $5,000 to the two runners up.
“I was supposed to play in Red Deer that night, but this is too important, and I cancelled. Lately, it’s been a hard time money-wise, but I’m also thankful for the recognition from all those people. And for the fact they nominated a Colombian artist for diversity. Being a nominee says a lot about Edmonton and all its cultures. To be recognized even though I don’t do much music in English is wonderful. We are so lucky,” de la Luna said.
Shortlisted in the music category are three albums: de la Luna’s sophomore album Qué pasará?; kâkîsimo by Cikwes, a soul singer and songwriter from Bigstone Cree Nation, and Twilight of the Empire by King of Foxes fronted by singer-songwriter Olivia Street.
Operating on the professional circuit for a decade, de la Luna has released two albums. Sabe is a full-length debut album with activist undertones. On the other hand, his sophomore album, Qué pasará?, is a whimsical CD characterizing the innocence of childhood and the joyful memories of his youth. It is a nostalgic reminder to reconcile with upheavals and emotions and continue dreaming for the future.
As a recording artist and performer, he has cultivated the respect and friendship of numerous distinguished artists including multi-instrumentalist Raphaël Freynet, trombonist Audrey Ochoa, drummer Jamie Cooper and percussionist Nathan Ouellette.
One of his most powerful allies is Grammy Award winning Gerry Rosado, a Mexican producer de la Luna recruited to co-produce Qué pasará?
“This was a difficult album to produce. We had to focus on keeping it connected to the community. But we also want to try and reach the Mexican and Colombian market with this album.”
Throughout the 10-track, each song feeds a different aspect of life. Acuérdate is a series of childhood memories while Un Canadien Errant is an adapted cover from a Francophone anthem popular in Quebec where his family first lived after immigrating to Canada.
“Volver a Empaezar was a little song that at first we didn’t know what to do with it. It was so small and sweet. It’s about whatever happens, happens. You can always start from zero. Tomorrow is always a new day.”
And Acéercate, No Muerdo was written post-pandemic.
“After the pandemic, we didn’t know if we should give someone your hand or give them a hug or a kiss or even look them in the eye. It’s about getting back together and dancing together. Solitude is the biggest cancer we have in society, and if we get together we will understand each other better.”