2017: Year in Review

It seems like we say it every year, but 2017 was truly a banner year for the Indigenous music scene.

From killer debuts (Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Carsen Gray, Riit and Ansley Simpson to name a few) to sensational sophomores (Iskwé, Once  A Tree, Mimi O’Bonsawin and more) to comebacks from legends we haven’t heard from in a while (thank you, Buffy Sainte-Marie), it was a massive year for new albums.

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Thanks to gems from Once A Tree, Tall Paul, Shawnee, District AvenueCody Coyote ft. Mob Bounce and others, it was also a big year for music videos. But no one got more eyeballs than A Tribe Called Red, who collaborated with Lido Pimienta on The Light II and won the Much Music Video of the Year Award for R.E.D. featuring Black Bear, Narcy and Yasiin Bey.

Speaking of Lido Pimienta, she became the third Indigenous artist in the past four years to win the Polaris Music Prize (Tanya Tagaq: 2014; Buffy Sainte-Marie: 2015) for La Papessa. Buffy herself also took home some hardware, winning the 2017 Allan Waters Humanitarian Award at The Junos. Winnipeg’s William Prince also got some Juno love, winning Contemporary Roots Album of the Year, as did A Tribe Called Red (Producer of the Year) and Quantum Tangle (Indigenous Music Album of the Year).

In other awards news, Jay Gilday won Indigenous Artist of the Year at BreakOut West, while Twin Flames were named Aboriginal Songwriters of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards for the second straight year. Meanwhile, Métis singer-songwriter Liv Wade won ImagineNative’s Bull’s Eye contest as Canada’s top emerging Indigenous artist.

At the Indigenous Music Awards in Winnipeg, Jade Turner won Best Country Album, Logan Staats won Best Folk Album (and Best Producer/Engineer), DJ Shub won Best Instrumental Album, Mariame won Best Pop Album, Joey Stylez won Best Rap/Hip Hop Album, Kristi Lane Sinclair won Best Rock Album and Carsen Gray won Best new Artist. Northern Cree, who made some serious noise with their epic performance at this year’s GRAMMYs, took home IMAs for Best Hand Drum Album and Lifetime Achievement.

Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas also won the MTV ‘Best Fight Against the System’ Video Music Award for Stand Up / Stand N Rock (#NoDAPL), an anthem denouncing the Dakota Access Pipeline and supporting the water protectors at Standing Rock. Taboo, who has Shoshone heritage, teamed up on the track with Plains Cree MC Drezus, Crow hip-hop artist Supaman, Navajo vocalist Kahara Hodges, Seminole singer Spencer Battiest and Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Nation flutist Tony Duncan.

But albums and awards shows were just the beginning.

Perhaps the biggest highlights of the year came in the form of concerts and festivals.

On June 21, APTN made broadcast history by celebrating National Aboriginal Day with live concerts in eight different cities across Canada. In all, Aboriginal Day Live featured more than 70 artists in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Yellowknife, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Northern Lights Festival Boréal also put on quite a show in Sudbury, showcasing some of the top Indigenous talent our country has to offer. In addition to headliners like Buffy Sainte-Marie and A Tribe Called Red, the festival featured up-and-coming artists like Leonard Sumner, Nick Sherman, Bryden Gwiss Kiwenzie, The Jerry Cans, Ansley Simpson and Quantum Tangle.

Not to be outdone, Winnipeg Folk Fest followed up 2016’s historic Native North America workshop with Dub Step Pow Wow, a bone-rattling set featuring beats from DJ Shub and and some phenomenal string work from Cris Derksen, alongside traditional Native American hoop dancing.

And in a year that the Canadian government ramped up its reconciliation efforts, it was fitting that RPM and The Basement Revue teamed up for New Constellations, a nation(s)wide tour featuring a mix of Indigenous and non-Indigenous talent on the same stage. Hitting up 13 communities over the course of four weeks, the series also offered up digital mentorship opportunities and in-community workshops.

On the film circuit, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World explored the role of Native Americans in popular music history and profiled artists like Link Wray, Robbie Robertson and others. Inspired by Stevie Salas’ own musical journey, the doc scored positive reviews around the world and won some major awards, including the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Masterful Storytelling at Sundance and both Audience Award categories at Hot Docs.

When They Awake, which celebrates the resilience and resurgence of Indigenous art, also earned positive reviews, won awards and helped spread the word about Canada’s next generation of musicians.

Here at DD, we had an incredible year as well.

In an effort to bring you even closer to the music, we launched the DD Podcast and increased our event coverage. In addition to Aboriginal Day Live, The Junos, Northern Lights Festival Boréal, Winnipeg Folk Fest, Festival du Voyageur, the Canada Games Festival and New Constellations, we hit up SXSW in Austin, Texas, covered the Dream Warriors in Colorado, and explored the DIY music scene on Haida Gwaii.

Through our Meet the Artist blog series, we introduced you to emerging talents like Nigel Irwin and Dakota Bear, and our DD Spotlight series profiled need-to-know musicians like The Jerry Cans, Shawnee, Quantum Tangle, Illustrated, and Lakes and Pines.

We also continued to dig deeper with our new DD Xposed series, where artists reveal their creative process, show off their go-to gear, and share the secrets behind their sound. And after a successful first season of DD Studio Sessions featuring Mob Bounce, Sister Says, Iskwé, David Morin, Midnight Shine and Sierra Noble, we followed it up with City Natives, The Bloodshots and Mimi O’Bonsawin (with more on the way in early 2018).

We also started writing a monthly blog post for Stingray Music, who announced a content partnership with APTN and First Peoples Radio Inc. earlier in the year. A few of our most popular posts included 10 Indigenous Artist You Need To Know Right Now and Six Power Couples Owning the Indigenous Music Scene.

And what does 2018 hold for DD and the Indigenous music scene? We’ll have to stay tuned to find out. But if 2017 was any indication, we have a lot to look forward to.

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