Nat’l Indigenous People’s Day: new additions to our Indigenous Renaissance playlist
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: there’s no point in trying to make a list of just five or six great new recordings by Indigenous artists these days.
Like, half of the great new Canadian music out there is by Indigenous artists – if not more.
So it feels more than a tad tokenistic to try and make a happy little “Here are some Indigenous artists you might want to listen to” post for National Indigenous People’s Day today.
Last year, we instead marked the day by launching our Roots Music Canada Indigenous Renaissance Spotify playlist, and this year, we’ve updated it with lots of great new stuff we discovered over the past year.
But for the record, here are some of the newest projects we’ve added that we haven’t yet written about on the site.
If there’s anything great that we’re missing on the playlist, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always up for adding more songs!
Kyle McKearney and Don Amero – “Let ‘Em Lie”
This is a brand new single from Kyle and Don that was written to honour the children who never made it home from Residential School, the survivors who did, and the families that are still affected by the intergenerational trauma caused by the schools. The artists describe it as a song of healing and empowerment for the people and a motivator to keep the conversation going. All proceeds from the song will be donated to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
Digging Roots – Zhawenim
Juno winners Digging Roots announced the forthcoming arrival of this album with a seriously badass single and video called “The Healer.” They’ve been putting out one tour de force after another ever since then. Now they’re all packaged up and ready to be released on Friday as part of Zhawenim, which means “to love unconditionally.” Appropriately, the album contains songs of love for the land, for the waters, and for lovers. The rocker “SKODEN” is about climate change. “Cut My Hair” is about the trauma of the Residential School experience and the healing path forward. “AK47” contains the transformative lyrics, “I wish I could load love into a gun, peace into a gun, hope into a gun…and fire at everyone.” The album ends with the slow burning “Sweetwater,” a song about the revolution of love through water. We can’t wait to hear the album in its entirety!
Amanda Rheaume – The Spaces In Between
There’s a definite theme on Amanda Rheaume’s new album of struggling with one’s identity as a Métis woman in the midst of the fallout from centuries of colonialism. The founding president of the Métis Nation of Ontario, Tony Belcourt, makes several appearances on The Spaces in Between – in interludes, literally the spaces in between the songs – providing context for that struggle. “What is a Métis?” he asks in “Interlude #1” before describing the “genocidal attitude” of the government of Sir. John A. MacDonald that sought to see the Metis assimilated into white society. Belcourt was a friend of Amanda’s late uncle, the first Metis Member of Parliament, Gene Rheaume. That Amanda comes from such an accomplished Metis family and has accomplished much herself – most recently co-founding the Indigenous record label Iskodé, on which this new album is released – yet still struggles with questions about where she fits in, will no doubt provide comfort to other people wrestling with the same questions. For the rest of us, it’s another sobering lesson about the impact of systemic racism in our country – one that just happens to be wrapped up in Amanda’s gorgeous artistry. Regardless of the subject matter, these are also some of the most moving songs she’s ever written and performed. Oh, and hey! Kinnie Starr co-wrote this single.
Berk Jodoin – Half Breed
Another record due out on Friday is the sophomore release from Métis artist Berk Jodoin, whose debut earned him the 2021 Saskatchewan Country Music Awards’ Indigenous Artist Bursary – and three Saskatchewan Country Music Award nominations. This new record is a lushly-produced country-rocker, influenced by artists like Waylon Jennings, with a lyrical focus on the consequences of intergenerational trauma, such as emotional problems, alcoholism, and suicide.
Kyle McKearney and Jason McCoy – “Hunger Strike”
OK, where do I begin unpacking just why this track is so cool? First of all, promising up-and-comer Kyle, who released one of our favourite singles last year, “Annie,” has teamed up with Canadian country music veteran Jason for this track. That’s pretty cool. Secondly, it’s a fundraiser for Food Banks Canada that’s already raised more than $10,000 since it was released early this year. Visits to the food bank have increased 20 per cent, since 2019, the artists tell us at the start of the video. Fundraisers aimed at addressing poverty are also welcome – though government action to end poverty would be even better. And thirdly, when you put the song on, you’re like, “I’ve heard this song before. Who did the original?” And you’re racking your brain for a traditional number or something by an old bluegrass or old-time band or something, and then you Google and realize it was actually written by Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and made famous by his band Temple of the Dog. Another lesson in the southern roots of rock n’ roll. Anyway, this song is just cool through and through, so have a listen.