“My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.”- Louis Riel
The above quote from Metis leader Louis Riel and has been resonating with me, as I reflect on the incredible richness of the Indigenous arts scene across Turtle Island (North America) and the intersections of art, activism, and justice.
As we approach National Indigenous People’s Day this year (make sure to check out your local celebrations), I thought about how I want to showcase and amplify my community and kin. As I attempted to curate a list of all the makers and creators I wanted to shout-out, it grew longer and longer. It is a time of great rejuvenation, revival, resistance, and resurgence for Indigenous people across Turtle Island.
In the end, I reflected on where I found strength as a young Indigenous person. I decided to focus and acknowledge the role of music in my personal journey. Through music I found community, strength, and resistance. It became a means to define, for myself, who I am and where I wanted to go.
With this, I present to you, a digital mixtape of sorts. My goal was to showcase the work of Indigenous women, queer people, Two-Spirit people, non-binary people, and Trans people who are putting out music across a range of genres from hip hop to folk, electronic to experimental.
Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day and happy listening.
Tanya Tagaq, Inuk from Iqaluktuuttiaq, Nunavut, is a force to be reckoned with. Not only is Tagaq a traditional throat singer and experimental musician, she is making waves as an author. Tagaq’s music and performance confront the viewer and listener challenging unspoken assumptions.
Hauntingly beautiful, Tagaq’s music will stay with you long after you listen.
I first came across composer and musician Jeremy Dutcher of Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick, watching his live Polaris Performance. His award-winning debut album, Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, was developed by Dutcher after listening to 110-year-old wax cylinder recordings of his ancestors and developing, “musical arrangements around them, breathing new life into traditional Wolastoq songs.”
Anachnid is Anna-Khesic Kway Harper, a multidisciplinary Oji-Cree artist based in Montreal. I came across their song La Lune on an Indigenous playlist and quickly became obsessed with the haunting song. Tackling addiction and mental health, Anachnid is a distinct and powerful voice.
Ziibiwan is Anishinaabe from the Wikwemikong Unceded First Nation on Manitoulin Island and is an electronic artist and producer based out of Toronto.
In listening to their tracks, I can see their relationship with the land and as a listener, I find this relationship to be a place of connecting.
Mourning Coup is the experimental, electro-pop creations of Chandra Melting Tallow, from the Siksika First Nation. Backed by dreamy synths and drum machines, Melting Tallow sings and reverberates eliciting otherworldly feelings.
Here’s hoping that a new album from the Vancouver-based musician is forthcoming.
I first came into contact with Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer and artist through her novels. Her command and power to weave words together cannot be understated. Her music defies boundaries and blends together poetry, song, and electric soundscapes.
Listening to her work ignites a fire in me. I hope her work carries the same match for you.
JB the First Lady, a member of the Nuxalk & Onondaga Nations, is a true heavy hitter in Vancouver. Not only is she a hip hop artist she is also a spoken word artist, beat-boxer, cultural dancer, and youth educator. Staying true to hip hop’s roots, her songs confront ongoing injustice in communities.
An outspoken advocate, JB the First Lady continues to fight for justice through her rhymes.
It would be impossible to create a playlist without including the leader and visionary Buffy St. Marie. Born in Piapot Plains Cree First Nation, it would be hard to do justice to St. Marie’s career, one that includes a stint on Sesame Street, winning an academy award, and being blacklisted by the US government.
A true Indigenous warrior, St. Marie continues to inspire and create.
Kinnie Starr, of mixed Mohawk, Dutch, German, and Irish ancestry, has overcome a great deal in her journey to continue making music. Having suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2015, Starr not only released a new album but also composed the score for the award-winning film, Edge of the Knife.
Her tracks are uplifting and you can’t help but sway along.
Angel Haze is a rapper and singer of Cherokee and African American descent. Addressing homophobia, rape culture, and racism, Angel Haze is an artist unafraid to tackle topics often seen as taboo in the music industry.
With a new album imminent since their 2015 release, Back in the Woods, it stands to reason their new music will be full to brim with hard hitting energy.
Melody McKiver is an Anishinaabe musician, media artist, traditional powwow dancer, and artist, and an arts educator of mixed ancestry. They create big, looping emotional arcs on viola. This is a new instrument to me, as someone who grew up believing that classical music was something not for me.
Their music creates beautiful and lush soundscapes to settle into.
Snotty Nose Rez Kids are an indigenous hip-hop duo from the Haisla Nation. I’ve included them as my bonus track because not only do they produce great beats and raps, they collaborate with some excellent West Coast Matriarchs. Seeing their performance live at the Polaris Gala I was excited to see some familiar faces of Coastal dancers and singers.
Their new album Trapline is filled with songs that will have you singing along and proud to be Indigenous.
Sharnelle Jenkins-Thompson is the Manager of Community Outreach. She and her three closest friends taught themselves how to play instruments and started a band, after being tired of going to punk shows and only seeing men on stage. She is pleased to see more diversity in the Vancouver music scene these days.
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