Indigenous music series launches third season
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The third season of a video series highlighting live performances and original new music by First Nation, Métis and Inuit artists will première on Facebook and YouTube on Jan. 20.
Anishinaabe and settler singer-songwriter Ila Barker will kick off the new season of Talking Stick, followed by country act Jerry Sereda on Jan. 27, hip-hop artist Stun on Feb. 17, and Metis singer/songwriter and actress Victoria Turko on Feb. 24.
Barker, a Winnipeg-based folk-soul musician who released her first album in 2013, says projects such as Talking Stick are a great way for Indigenous, First Nations and Métis artists to be supported.
“We are so lucky here in the province. I haven’t found that same hub of community building in other cities,” Barker says. “Manitoba Music has helped out in so many different ways in the years of me being an artist, making space for Indigenous artists and their stories. It’s genuinely huge and uplifting for a lot of us.”
The project is led by the Indigenous Music Development Program (IMDP) at Manitoba Music and produced by Winnipeg-based Cree/Ojibwe producer and director Erica Daniels.
It is a 100 per cent Indigenous project, Shaneen Robinson-Desjarlais, co-ordinator of the Indigenous Music Development at Manitoba Music says.
“This was something very important to me as a First Nations woman. My priority is not only to empower and showcase our artists but to also provide opportunities to Indigenous producers,” she says.
“Every aspect has Indigenous involvement, from catering to location to film crew.”
Twelve artists entered the call for submissions last year, with the final four chosen by a jury of three Indigenous music industry professionals.
The first two seasons of the program featured emerging artists who had not had the chance to be in professional music videos. This season highlights mid-level artists who are showcasing new work.
“It was a really great group of submissions,” says Robinson-Desjarlais. “We saw entries coming from across the province and spanning genres.
The video starts off with a short interview with the artist before they perform their song.
The title Talking Stick was chosen because the series is an opportunity for young Indigenous performers to talk about their work, Robinson-Desjarlais explains.
A talking stick, also referred to as the speaker’s staff, is an ancient communication tool used in many Indigenous cultures as a code of respect for the speaker, assuring them they have to right to speak and to be heard in a quiet and respectful manner by others.
“It’s a chance to see who these artists are as a person. As fans oftentimes people don’t see that side of them,” Robinson-Desjarlais says.
“Indigenous artists and our music is different. Where we come from is unique. The stories that are told come from a place that other people don’t even think about.
“There are some heavy subject matters that mainstream artists aren’t dealing with so much and the interviews allow people to see the heart and soul of where that music is coming from.”
For Daniels the series raises awareness of the breadth of Indigenous talent in the music industry.
“It’s a platform to promote indigenous musicians and it’s very important as not many people are aware we have this community of artists and musicians who are sharing their stories about the communities, music, and entertainment with an indigenous perspectives,” she says.
“Shaneen came up with the idea and reached out to us to produce this visually,” Daniels says.
“It’s a way for these artists to be recognized and heard. They can use the videos to get different gigs or bookings because they have a visual of their music and performance.”
For artists like Barker, the chance to have a professionally made video was not to be missed out on. She says that having live content is important and gives musicians a way to secure bookings.
“It’s so people can see what we sound like and how we perform live without any sort of mixing. Manitoba Music did a lot of heavy lifting, setting this up, and picking the location. There are so many barriers to doing that and also not having the finances to back it; for them to do this really impacts us in a great way.”
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AV Kitching is an arts and life writer at the Free Press.