‘Free’ music video takes top honours

Emilee Ann Pitawankwat and Andrea Ramolo

Nine-year-old Wiikwemkoong band member a co-director

TORONTO—Andrea Ramolo and Emilee Ann Pitawankwat (who has family ties to Manitoulin Island) have won the finals in this year’s Canadian Independent Music Video Awards, in the folk category.

“They won!” stated an elated Sara Pitawanakwat, of her nine-year-old daughter Emilee Ann, and star musician Andrea Ramolo, who have won the Canadian Independent Music Video Awards in the folk category. The two co-directed the music video ‘Free’ which was announced by judges (via Zoom) as the winner in the folk division this past Sunday.

“You should have seen and heard all the screaming and crying,” Ms. Pitawanakwat told The Expositor, as the three got together to watch the show announcing all the winners. She pointed out there were six videos in the running for ‘best of’ in the finals.

“The folk category was the first one announced at the ceremony and each of the contestants was named,” said Ms. Pitawanakwat. “When the announcement was made that ‘Free’ and Andrea had won, Andrea screamed and Emilee Ann was crying—she was really happy.”

When asked by The Expositor via telephone how she felt on being a winner in the competition, Emilee Ann was literally, speechless.

Ms. Ramolo said, “I think the judges were impressed with the importance of the message in the video and the power of watching it.”

Emilee Ann starred in and co-directed the music video with Ms. Ramolo after a chance encounter last summer in Toronto. The video also features Kinnie Starr.

The video for Ms. Ramolo’s song ‘Free’ can be found on her album ‘Quarantine Dream which was released last October.

Ms. Ramolo is a recording artist and multiple Canadian music award nominee. She was preparing to record the video for ‘Free’ with Kinnie Starr, an Indigenous hip-hop alternative singer-songwriter, when she had a dream. “The song ‘Free’ was playing and Emilee Ann was there.”

Emilee Ann then worked with Ms. Ramolo to express her thoughts on the word ‘freedom’ through arts and crafts. The video was recorded just 18 days after their initial meeting. In the video, Emilee Ann leads Ms. Ramolo through a forest and it ends with the young girl hoop dancing. Emilee Ann came up with the movements and did a hoop dance in the video.

The Pitawanakwats are from Wiikwemkoong. The senior Ms. Pitawanakwat was born in Little Current and raised in Wiikwemkoong. Emilee Ann was born in Toronto but knows the community of Wiikwemkoong very well.

Emilee Ann and her mother met Ms. Ramolo when they attended a July 1, 2021 ‘Every Child Matters’ walk in downtown Toronto. When the crowd gathered at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square after the march, Emilee Ann, the solo hoop dancer at the event, was invited into the centre of the circle to dance.

Ms. Ramolo had joined the march to walk in the spirit of solidarity. While she was walking, she explained she came upon two ladies and a young girl in dancing regalia. She noticed Emilee Ann and struck up a conversation.

“Emilee Ann and I will definitely do something together again,” said Ms. Ramolo. “Em is preparing to join me at Summer Folk celebrations being held in Owen Sound in August. She will be performing and doing workshops on hoop dancing.”