Award-winning Indigenous folk rocker Mike Bern releases his solo debut
Award-winning Indigenous folk rock artist Mike Bern – who just happens to hail from Tobique First Nation, the same New Brunswick community that is home to Jeremy Dutcher – has released his debut solo EP, Waponahkew.
Meaning “person of the dawn,” Waponahkew and its title track pay stunning homage and gratitude to Mike’s Waponahki ancestors, while “First Mother” draws on the book The Red Man for inspiration; the release’s single, “Apatapasiq,” honours the suffering and stories of residential school survivors — including those in Mike’s own family.
Though this is Mike’s debut solo album, he previously sang in award-winning bands Kickin Krotch and District Avenue. He released the Indigenous Music Countdown chart-climbing single “First Mother” and opened for Seaway, The Trews, One Bad Son, The Motorleague, and others.
Additionally, District Avenue’s music video for the song “Revival” was featured at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Mike has a signature raspy rock vocal style that he pairs with traditional folk acoustic melodies and a hint of southern gospel, crediting influences like Chris Otepka, Frankie Miller, and Ben Schneider.
Nowhere on Waponahkew is this more notable than on the album’s second song, “Apatapasiq.”
“The song is about the experience my aunt and uncles went through in the Shubenacadie Residential School,” Mike explained.
“I remember a story my uncle told me once: They were always thirsty when they went to bed and the nuns would never give them anything to drink.”
To solve it as best they could, the kids would “keep one stall clean in the bathroom and take turns dipping their socks in the toilet for a drink.
“I want the listener to experience the heartache and pain these children suffered,” Mike continued. “Being away from loved ones and forced to take on a new world and lifestyle…
“This song is dedicated to my family and all the residential school survivors.”