10 Great Indigenous Musicians to Listen to in 2021
- Digging Roots
ShoShona Kish and Raven Kanetatka are an Anishinabe power couple and blues duo who spin new twists on ancient traditions. Merging blues, pow-wow and hip hop, their band Digging Roots has headlined festivals across the country; the pair have collaborated with A Tribe Called Red, Tanya Tagaq and Kinnie Starr. But what sets these folx on the highest level is their committed activism: they are the founders of “We Are the Stronghold”, a concert series with RAVEN, along with the Indigenous Music Summit – a safe and sacred space to nurture Indigenous talent and connect up- and-coming artists to industry professionals. Shoshana and Raven give back through their music but also to uplift their fellow musicians – true gems whose songs sparkle with warmth and passion.
2. Tanya Tagaq
From her website: “Experimental vocalist and artist Tanya Tagaq won the Polaris Prize for best Canadian album in 2014, for Animism. Those who thought she had then made her definitive artistic statement are in for a surprise. Also in for a shock are those who thought international success, playing to major festivals and packed houses all over the world, would lead to a mellower sound, or a more laid back approach.”
(via Tanya Tagaq)
- Snotty Nose Rez Kids
From their website: “Snotty Nose Rez Kids is 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.
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!”
(via Snotty Nose Rez Kids)
- Frank Waln
From Mic.com: “Sicangu Lakota and member of the hip-hop group Nake Nula Waun, Frank Waln is one of the most outspoken young rappers in the indigenous music scene today. His song “Oil 4 Blood” takes a political stance on the Keystone XL pipeline controversy, which embroiled indigenous groups in a political battle when it became clear the TransCanada oil pipeline would need to run under Native lands.”
- 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”.
From CBC: “The classically trained operatic tenor and composer released his stunning debut album, Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, or Our Maliseets Songs, just a few months ago, and already it’s been nominated for the Polaris Music Prize long list. It’s no surprise: from the first single last year, “Honour Song,” critics raved at Dutcher’s remarkable weaving of traditional field recordings of Wolastoq songs with classical, jazz and electronic music.” —Justin Chandler
- 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.
From their website: “Kookum is an Indigenous DJ and videographer from the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, and Cold Lake First Nations, their maternal Denesuline traditional territory. Based out of Vancouver BC, Kookum has been making a name for their self across the country and is no stranger in the community.Kookum is an open format DJ but grew up listing to EDM and Hip Hop music. This diverse mix diva slays on the decks and always keeps it hype, fresh, and unpredictable.”
(via DJ Kookum)
From their website: “With a style perpetually galvanized by darkness and haunting northern beauty, sisters, Tiffany Kuliktana Ayalik and Kayley Inuksuk Mackay, come together to create Inuit style throat singing duo, PIQSIQ. 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.”
PIQSIQ’s name stems from the 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.
Haida singer-songwriter Ms Panik is a great supporter of RAVEN. When her album “Open Hearts” dropped, she set up a crowdfunding campaign for Indigenous legal challenges and donated a free download to folx who supported her online fundraiser, saying “Indigenous peoples in Canada have some of the strongest legal rights in the world, but it’s not right that they should have to stand up to industry on their own. For the love of the ocean, this beautiful land and for future generations, I am standing up to Big Oil.”
From her website: “Award-nominated Haida loop-poet philosopher Ms.PAN!K singer/songwriter/sound creator/storyteller & artist creates experimental loop-pedal-driven soundscapes, indie Indigenous soul, and soul full acoustic melodies. Ms.PAN!K’s live performance blends elements of her singer/songwriter indie-folk roots with improvised experimental loop compositions that merge and mix vocal elements, traditional drum, guitar, and percussion fused with emotion & soul. PAN!K’s verses are a socio-political exploration shaped by the enigmatic human experience & her love of prose, spoken word poets, hip hop philosophers, experimental electronic and soul-legends. PAN!K’s music weaves wisdom, soul, and melody together into her loop-crafted soundscapes; often experimental, improvised and tailored for the energy of each audience.”
(via Ms. PAN!K)
From their website: “Mob Bounce is Indigenous influenced Hip Hop with a fuse of EDM (Electronic Dance Music), with Traditional and Contemporary aspects. Both Travis and Craig’s gripping lyricism delve into spirituality, social awareness/justice, and Mother Earth connection. Mob Bounce is a display of Hip Hop music and poetry with conviction.”
- 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 (link to episode from our website).
From their website: “Cris Derksen is a two-spirit Juno Award–nominated Cree cellist from Northern Alberta, Canada. Derksen 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.”