ShoShona Kish and Amanda Rheaume have launched a new Indigenous record label
Two of the busiest women in the Canadian music industry just got busier.
ShoShona Kish and Amanda Rheaume have just launched Ishkodé Records, a women-led Indigenous music label that intends to do business differently from the industry at large, in a manner informed by its founders’ worldview as Indigenous women.
It was ShoShona’s idea, Amanda said, but it grew out of their working relationship, their friendship and the sisterhood they developed working together on the Indigenous Music Summit over the past couple of years.
“We definitely want to rematriate the space,” Amanda said of their vision. “And we will be less extractive from the artists. You know? I just really feel strongly that the industry right now is definitely set up… not in the artists’ favour.”
Ishkodé is concerned with issues like narrative sovereignty and keeping ownership of songs in the hands of artists, she said. It’s even looking at ways of making artists shareholders in the company.
“Having to incorporate at all is like a colonial action in itself,” she said. ”So, we’re just trying to ride that fine line between being able to do what we need to do but also [creating] this kind of stronghold or this place where we can lead in a different way.”
Ishkodé’s roster currently consists of three artists: Amanda, Digging Roots, and their first signing, Aysanabee, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer from Sandy Lake First Nation in northwestern Ontario, who is currently based in Toronto.
They discovered him through the summit this year, Amanda explained.
“He applied to have a showcase, and we were like, ‘Who is this?!!’” she said. “We were both just so deeply moved by his music and his story and his hope for his music.”
Ishkodé’s slogan is “Songs for the eighth fire,” a reference to the Anishinaabe prophesy about Indigenous people and settlers achieving justice and harmony and moving forward in a good way, Amanda explained – a prophesy that may or may not come to pass.
“The music that we work with will have some elements of purpose and message and healing,” she said, “with that kind of in mind.”
One thing is for certain, both women have a track record of getting things done.
ShoShona is one half of the Juno-winning duo Digging Roots, the powerhouse organizer behind the Indigenous Music Summit, a past president and current director of Folk Music Canada, a member of the Music Canada Advisory Council, and a contributor to CBC’s q – all of which contributed to her earning the Spirit of Folk award from Folk Alliance International and the Professional Excellence award from WOMEX.
Amanda is a Juno-nominated singer-songwriter, a co-conspirator in the Indigenous Music Summit, a former organizer of Bluebird North and Babes for Breasts in Ottawa and project manager with the Toronto Blues Society.
Their distributor for Ishkodé is Universal Music.
When I asked Amanda what it was like to marry their visionary young label with a multi-national corporation very much associated with mainstream music industry practices, she said that so far, the experience has been great.
“From the get go, they understood why we were doing what we were doing. And that was made very clear that this relationship is reciprocal,” Amanda said.
“We’re bringing a lot to the table, and maybe not in the traditional sense of, like, millions of streams at this point – you know, that can come – but it’s coming from a different place of value and ethics and meaning and amplification of voices that have been silenced… since contact.”