In celebration of National Indigenous History Month, we’ve put together a list of Indigenous artists that you should definitely be listening to if you’re not already.
From renowned Canadian legends like Tanya Tagaq and Buffy Sainte-Marie to up-and-coming artists like Zoon and Jayli Wolf, we’ve put together a list of some Indigenous musicians that you’ve got to take a listen to.
Check out 10 Indigenous artists to listen to this month below.
Experimental vocalist and artist Tanya Tagaq is definitely a must-listen musician. In 2014, Tagaq won the Polaris Music Prize for her album, Aminism. Following that release, Tagaq returned with her powerful, more musically aggressive, and more aggressively political album, Retribution. If you’re looking for an honest exploration of expression and passion, you’ve got to listen to Tanya Tagaq.
Jeremy Dutcher also won the Polaris Music Prize in 2018 for his album, Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa. Dutcher, as a member of Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick, infuses performance, composition, activism, and musicology into his art, as his music tends to transcend boundaries. Singing of struggles of resistance, Dutcher takes ancestral voices singing forgotten songs and stories that had been taken from the Wolastoqiyik generations ago, and adds in his own musical impulses.
From Panniqtuq, Nunavut, Riit’s unique style of music combines electropop with traditional Inuit throat singing and features lyrics in the Inuktitut language. Riit’s debut EP earned her nominations for Best Radio Single at the Indigenous Music Awards, and Indigenous Artist of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards. She released her debut full-length album ataataga in 2019, produced by Graham Walsh from Holy Fuck, and recorded in Iqaluit and Toronto. Riit has since returned with a new single that you’ve got to check out called “Sail.”
If you aren’t listening to Canadian legend and Academy Award-winning singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie yet, you better change that stat. The Cree musician has made history, from her groundbreaking debut album It’s My Way! to creating one of the world’s first electronic vocal albums in 1969 to the release of her most recent album, Medecine Songs. Buffy Sainte-Marie’s expansive catalogue is unbelievably powerful, so get listening!
Daniel Monkman’s shoegaze project ZOON made some serious waves with his renowned album, Bleached Wavves, which was just announced on the 2021 Polaris Music Prize long list. Zoon is short for the Ojibway word Zoongide’ewin, which means “bravery, courage, the Bear Spirit,” and you can really feel that message on Zoon’s debut album. Bleached Wavves sees Monkman painting a message of hope and strength using lessons he learned studying the Seven Grandfather teachings after experiencing the lowest point of his life.
Snotty Nose Rez Kids
Canadian Hip-Hop duo of Haisla descent, Snotty Noze Rez Kids, are made up of rappers Yung Trybez and Young D. After forming in 2016, Snotty Nose Rez Kids released their debut self-titled album in January 2017 before following it up with their second record later that year, and in 2019 they released their third album, TRAPLINE. These captivating performers have been awarded Best Hip Hop Artist and Breakout Artist at the Western Canadian Music Awards, they’ve landed on 2018’s and 2019’s Top 10 list for the Polaris Music Prize, and they also were nominated for the best Indigenous Music Album at the Juno Awards in 2019.
Juno Award-winning husband and wife music duo, Raven Kanatakta Polson-Lahache and Sho-Shona Kish, make up Digging Roots. Bringing together a delicate balance of folk-rock, pop, blues, and hip hop blended with the traditional sounds of Indigenous Music, Digging Roots has a whole slew of genre-bending tunes that you’ll find yourself revisiting again and again. Digging Roots’ music is rooted in activism and social injustices. “Our activism is kind of in the way that we live, more than anything. It’s build on how we live as a family,” Raven explains.
Inuit style throat singers Kayley Inuksuk Mackay and Tiffany Kuliktana Ayalik join forces to make PIQSIQ. Together, the pair perform a mix of traditional songs and eerie new tunes, and they are dedicated to mixing things up. PIQSIQ’s name stems from the sisters’ shared confusion about their identities growing up. In Inuktut, a “piqsiq” is a type of storm where the wind blows in a way that makes it appear as though snow is falling up toward the sky.
iskw? is short for waseskwan iskwew, which means “blue sky woman,” and not only is iskw? an artist, but she considers herself “a creator and communicator of music and of movement, of pictures, poetry and prose,” according to her biography. Ultimately, iskw?’s music revolves around stories that have influenced our past and will inform our future, which you can really see on her most recent album, The Stars. This elegant collection is filled with intimate reimagined versions of six songs from her third album, ac?kos?k.
Indigenous, Queer artist Jayli Wolf has newly embarked as a solo artist. Wolf is readying her forthcoming EP, which is set to see her exploring her past, present, and future by focusing on and exploring her Indigenous history and bisexuality. “I finally have the courage to use my voice to tell these stories,” Wolf explains. I hope this project will be able to shed light on and raise awareness of these subject matters. We can forgive for our own healing. The road ahead is long, and change takes time.”