10 Indigenous Musicians to Listen To Right Now
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Indigenous musicians are pouring out incredible hip-hop, indie, and dance beats. Grab playlists guaranteed to put a bounce in your step.
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1. Tia Wood
Though only 23, Tia Wood is a seasoned entertainer, having toured the pow wow trail extensively with her family (many of whom are members of Grammy Award-winning group, Northern Cree).
A singer-songwriter from Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta, Tia left her rural Alberta home at the age of 20 and made her way to Los Angeles, where she became part of a phenomenal cultural and spiritual movement led by Indigenous creators. Comprising talents like Earth Arrow and Edgar Hernandez, this vanguard of progressive voices are bringing together decolonizing messages with a passion for revitalizing ancient traditions.
“I have been singing ever since I could talk,” says Wood, in a profile in Vogue magazine. “I grew up in a family of singers. When we were little, it was normal to hear powwow, peyote, handgame, and poetry in the background, whether we were crafting, eating dinner, or playing outside. We also would do a lot of shows as a family, as a way to practice and put food on the table as a tribe of six.”
Tia has an iconic sound that pulls from her grounding in traditional Cree medicine songs, ‘rez life’, and the craft of using pop culture and media to call people into deeper understanding of Indigenous struggle, and wisdom traditions. With songs like “Dirt Roads”, Tia strings timeless sounds with modern realities, crafting a new vision for Indigenous youth and lovers of authentic soul sounds alike.
2. Tanya Tagaq
Tanya Tagaq is an Inuk throat singer, composer, visual artist, advocate, writer and public speaker from Ikaluktutiak (Cambridge Bay, Nunavut). Tagaq is decolonizing the status quo with her groundbreaking music, political activism and Indigenous leadership.
Listen to her music or purchase her book, Split Tooth if you’re looking for your world to be broken open in the best possible way. Check her out as part of RAVEN’s #365 Indigenous project – celebrating Indigenous achievement not just one day a year, but EVERY day.
3. Snotty Nose Rez Kids
Snotty Nose Rez Kids are a Canadian Hip-Hop duo of Haisla (Indigenous) descent from Kitimat, BC, composed of rappers Yung Trybez and Young D. Formed in 2016, SNRK released their first self-titled album in January 2017, and followed up that same year with their second full-length, The Average Savage in September 2017.
RAVEN was lucky to have SNRK perform at the Canned Salmon Music Festival in 2021: one of the ways 2021 didn’t totally suck.
SNRK won Breakout Artist at the Western Canadian Music Awards and the album was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize. TRAPLINE was named one of the 50 Best Albums of the 2010’s, Top 10 Hip Hop Album of the Year, and Top 50 Songs of the 2010’s for Boujee Natives by Exclaim!
4. Frank Waln
Frank Waln is Sicangu Lakota and member of the hip-hop group Nake Nula Waun. One of the most outspoken young rappers in the Indigenous music scene today, he takes a political stance on the Keystone XL pipeline controversy with songs like “Oil 4 Blood”.
His activism around the Trans Mountain pipeline calls out the environmental racism of pushing through oil and gas projects against the wishes of Indigenous Peoples, while calling for resistance and protection from those who long to be in good relationship with the Earth and all beings.
5. Jeremy Dutcher
Hauntingly beautiful arrangements frame 100 year old wax cylinder recordings of Jeremy Dutcher’s Wolastoq ancestors. Dutcher kindly lent RAVEN his evocative music to adorn teachings by Dr. John Borrows on RAVEN’s podcast, S1 E5, “The Great Way of Decision Making”.
Dutcher is a classically trained operatic tenor and composer whose stunning debut album, Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, or Our Maliseets Songs, won a Polaris Music Prize. The album features Dutcher’s remarkable weaving of traditional field recordings of his ancestral Wolastoq songs with classical, jazz and electronic music.
6. DJ Kookum
DJ Kookum weaves stories with sound and light to enchant and enflame. RAVEN was lucky to have them join as part of Pull Together fundraising, where Kookum used their art as activism to support Indigenous Nations opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline and tankers project.
An Indigenous DJ and videographer from the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, and Cold Lake First Nations, Kookum’s maternal Denesuline traditional territory. Kookum has been making a name for their self across the country and is a legend in the EDM and hip-hop communities. Anyone who has ever gotten down to their shows knows this diva slays on the decks and always keeps it hype, fresh, and unpredictable.
PIQSIQ’s name stems from two Inuit sisters’ shared feelings of confusion regarding their identities growing up. In Inuktut, a “piqsiq” is a type of storm where winds blow in a very specific way, making it look like the snow is falling back up towards the sky.
Tiffany Kuliktana Ayalik and Kayley Inuksuk Mackay come together to create Inuit style throat singing duo, PIQSIQ. Their style is perpetually galvanized by darkness and haunting northern beauty. Performing ancient traditional songs and eerie new compositions, they leave their listeners enthralled with the infinity of possible answers to the question “what is the meaning of life.”
8. Saltwater Hank
Singer-songwriter Saltwater Hank joined RAVEN for the Canned Salmon Music Festival in 2021 and blew us away with his soulful, sardonic folksongs. Stripped down and raw, these songs are poetic, relevant, and peppered with an unpredictable blend of anguish and amusement.
Saltwater Hank has a natural comedic timing throughout his songwriting and performance, and the many hours spent on all of his chosen instruments are shown through his skillful delivery. Having relocated back to his home community of Kxeen (also known as Prince Rupert, BC) before the pandemic, the time away from the hustle of touring and other music industry pressures allowed Saltwater Hank to hold a newfound space for himself and his community. Immersing himself in his roots led to writing songs about his own experiences gathering food and spending time on the ocean and nearby Skeena River (Ḵ’a̱la̱ Ksyen), as well as musically relaying the stories of history and culture shared with him in the Gitga’ata.
9. HK aka Higher Knowledge
HK aka "Higher Knowledge" is a blend of the streets, the vibe, and the wisdom gained from a lifetime of adversity.
With Mestizo, indigenous roots from Cuzcatlan/Collasayu and European roots from Spain/Romania, HK's resistance and warriorhood is sowed throughout their music. HK has played with Tia Wood and Desiree Dawson for RAVEN benefit concerts, and MC'd the amazing 'Festival Afloat' at Vancouver's Jericho Beach.
10. Cris Derksen
RAVEN learned of Cris Derksen’s gorgeous sound when they joined Serena Ryder and Digging Roots to headline a star-studded gala evening in support of Wet’suwet’en legal challenges in February, 2020. With sounds pulled from her deepest roots, the cellist and vocalist mesmerized the Toronto audience at “We are the Stronghold”: hear parts of her set on Episode 6 of our podcast, RAVEN DeBriefs.
A two-spirit Juno Award–nominated Cree cellist from Northern Alberta, CrisDerksen is known for their unique musical sound which blends classical music with traditional Indigenous music. Derksen’s music is often described as “electronic cello” or classical traditional fusion” but in truth, the hauntingly passionate sound is entirely their own.