9 Indigenous Artists Making Music You Need to Hear

From coast to coast, these are some of the Indigenous voices who deserve a spot on your next playlist.

From Vancouver Island to the east coast of Canada, there are talented Indigenous voices rising up in the music community. We took a virtual tour across the country, checking in on a handful of our favourite artists that range from traditional folk to ferocious punk and everything between. From electronic/hip-hop trio Silla & Rise who were just nominated for a Juno Award (Canada’s equivalent of the Grammys) to old school heavyweights like Willie Thrasher, these diverse talents deserve to be amplified beyond just a simple Indigenous tagline. Take a listen here. And send us a message to tell us about other artists we should know about! 

Jeremy Parkin (Whitehorse, YT)

Jeremy Parkin is only 23 years old but the Kwanlin Dün First Nation artist has already been making major waves in his territory and beyond, flexing his skills as a young and brooding producer from the comfort of his bedroom. He is also one-half of the hip-hop duo LOCAL BOY, blending his progressive beats with MC Kelvin’s quirky vocal stylings for a cool and disarming take on the genre. They recently performed a Macleans livestream presented by the Dawson City Music Festival and will be dropping their debut album later this year. “Kelvin continually levels up every time we’ve been sitting down and working, so there’s some new sounds that I can’t wait for the world to hear,” Parkin tells us. 

Willie Thrasher (Nanaimo, BC)

Willie Thrasher is a living Canadian folk legend. An Inuk singer-songwriter from Aklavik, Inuvik; in 1981 he released an album called Spirit Child, a rich collection of songs steeped in his Inuvialuit culture. Thirty-five years later, Seattle-based Light in the Attic Records edged Thrasher back into the spotlight, reissuing the album and including him on their celebrated Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966-1985 compilation. Thrasher is currently residing in Nanaimo BC, still writing music inspired by the ocean and his Pacific West Coast surroundings. 

DJ Kookum (Vancouver, BC)

Cheyanna Kootenhayoo (aka DJ Kookum) is a Vancouver-based DJ and filmmaker who grew up listening to everything from Spice Girls to 2Pac. Mixing a diverse blend of trap, hip-hop, R&B, and EDM, DJ Kookum knows how to keep a party going and has worked with some of Canada’s biggest Indigenous hip-hop artists, including Mob Bounce, Drezus, and Snotty Nose Rez Kids, to name a few.

No More Moments (Siksika Nation)

Equally fast and furious, No More Moments have been a powerful Indigenous voice in Alberta’s punk and hardcore community for the last decade. Drummer Carlin Blackrabbit is one of the youngest councillors in history for the Siksika Nation and also plays in the super heavy and fuzzed-out punk quartet, Iron Tusk. Both bands are shredding at decibels that one day may land them their own spot in First Nations folklore. 

Jesse Jams (Edmonton, AB)

Photo: Mike McLaughlin

24-year-old Jesse Jams is a First Nations transgender mumble punk artist who has found his way in music with the help of some supportive friends and bandmates in the Edmonton music scene. His story was recently documented in a short film by filmmaker Trevor Anderson that won the Jury Award for Best Canadian Short at the Calgary Underground Film Festival. Catchy songs about everyday life complemented by soaring harmonies and an air-tight rhythm section, Jesse Jams has transformed his tragedies into triumphs. 

Dump Babes (Saskatoon, SK)

Vocalist Aurora Wolfe’s warm and commanding vocals embrace dreamy indie-folk melodies that surf their way through a lo-fi fuzz that would make Dump Babes perfect tourmates to bands like Bleached, La Luz or anyone on the Burger Records roster. Made with love and respect on Treaty 6 Territory—the traditional homeland of the Cree and Metis peoples—their new self-titled album was released in February and solidifies them as one of Saskatoon’s hottest up and coming exports. 

Silla & Rise (Ottawa, ON)

Throat singers Charlotte Qamaniq and Cynthia Pitsiulak (aka Silla) teamed up with DJ/producer  Eric Vani (Rise) after a collab at the Canadian Museum of Nature’s Nature Nocturne uncovered an undeniable chemistry between the trio. Together they create a unique pastiche of electronic dance music and hip-hop that blends traditional Inuit throat songs with rhythmic modern sounds, landing them a Juno Award nomination for World Music Album Of The Year this year for their album, Galactic Gala.

Crown Lands (Oshuwa, ON) 

Crown Lands is a majestic two-piece psychedelic prog band that bows down to Zeppelin while creating a sound uniquely their own. Lead singer and drummer Cody Bowles and guitarist Kevin Comeau have just released an acoustic EP, Wayward Flyers Volume 1; an authentic blues-rock romp that climbs a stairway to somewhere far beyond the reaches of heaven. Keep an eye out for the stunning new video for their track “End Of The Road” on July 25 which doubles as an awareness campaign for the missing and murdered Indigenous women along the “Highway of Tears.”

Ziibiwan (Toronto, ON)

The young Anishinaabe artist Ziibiwan Rivers, who performs as Ziibiwan, creates beautiful and ethereal soundscapes that combine ambient experimental electronics, hip-hop, and R&B with a no-holds-barred approach to production. Hypnotic and otherworldly, Rivers’ compositions will transport you to another dimension that isn’t that far away, but just distant enough to make you feel like you’re on vacation.

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