2016: Year in Review
Following back-to-back Polaris prizes for Tanya Tagaq (2014) and Buffy Sainte-Marie (2015), we expected 2016 to be another big year for Canada’s Indigenous music scene. And deliver it did.
While another Polaris wasn’t in the cards, there was no shortage of hardware for artists across the country. At the Juno Awards in Calgary, the legendary Sainte-Marie won both the Aboriginal Album of the Year and the Contemporary Roots Album of the Year for Power in the Blood, while also scoring a nomination for Songwriter of the Year. Winnipeg’s William Prince also had a breakout year, picking up Aboriginal Artist of the Year at the West Coast Music Awards and a nomination for Contemporary Singer of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards. The WCMAs also honoured Vancouver’s David Morin with Urban Artist of the Year, Saskatoon’s Yvonne St. Germaine with Spiritual Artist of the Year and Métis fiddle legend Jon Arcand with BreakOut West’s 2016 Heritage Award, while the CFMAs recognized Twin Flames (Aboriginal Songwriters of the Year). Out East, hip-hop group City Natives continued to build momentum with another ECMA win in the Aboriginal Artist of the Year category. And not to be forgotten, newcomer Ansley Simpson won the inaugural Bull’s Eye talent search and $10,000 towards her budding music career.
But the awards were just the beginning.
Building on the success of 2014’s Animism, Tanya Tagaq made an emphatic return with Retribution, an album Rolling Stone referred to as “her strongest outing yet” and NPR described as “a dense, immersive collection of sounds unlike any sounds on any other albums in your collection.” A Tribe Called Red also dropped We Are The Halluci Nation, which featured Tagaq, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Lido Pimienta, Shad, Black Bear, Narcy, Saul Williams, John Trudell, Joseph Boyden, and OKA, and racked up glowing reviews around the globe. Widely considered two of Canada’s top albums of the year, Retribution and Halluci Nation made countless “Best Of” lists and demanded increased coverage of Indigenous artists by the mainstream media.
More under the radar, but equally notable, were new releases from Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (f(l)ight), Tara Williamson (Songs To Keep Us Warm), District Avenue (Epoch), DJ Shub (Indomitable), City Natives (Nomadic), Crystal Shawanda (Fish Out Of Water), Ziibiwan (Time Limits) and The Jerry Cans (Inuusiq). We were also treated to some killer singles, including Vision Quest by Mob Bounce ft. Boogey the Beat, 7 by Frank Waln ft. Tanaya Winder, AK-47 by Digging Roots, Sometimes by Iskwé, Don’t Shoot by Shawnee, In The River by Raye Zaragoza, ’03 Til Infinity by T-Rhyme, and #BadDAPL by Tall Paul.
Here at DD, we had a big year as well. In an effort to bring our audience even closer to the music, we increased our live event coverage, attending the Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival in beautiful B.C., Folk on the Rocks in Yellowknife, Aboriginal Music Week, Aboriginal Day Live, the Two-Spirit Rainbow Pow Wow at Pride Toronto, the Junos in Calgary and Winnipeg Folk Fest, where we had the honour of presenting Native North America: A Selection of Musical Trailblazers. We also expanded our Spotlight series and our 20 Questions blog series, introducing our followers to up-and-coming artists like DJ Kakekaze, Ila Barker, Mob Bounce, Sister Says, Felipe Gomez, Tall Paul, Cody Coyote, Jade Turner, Digging Roots, Tanaya Winder, Mimi O’Bonsawin, Nick Sherman, and Twin Flames, and important community programs like Graffiti Art Programming and AMP Camp. Most recently, we launched a pair of new series: DD Studio Sessions chronicles the sessions of six different artists at six different studios across Canada, while in DD Xposed our artists reveal their creative process, show off their go-to gear, and share the secrets behind their sound.
And what does 2017 hold for the Indigenous music scene? We’ll have to stay tuned to find out. But if 2016 was any indication, we have a lot to look forward to.