Aboriginal Music Week at Lunch: Eekwol
In a scene as much about image as it is about sound, Eekwol is a rare and refreshing voice in the world of hip hop.
True to her Nehiyaw roots and real as it gets, the Saskatoon MC blends personal struggle with universal truth to deliver lyrics with weight and music with a message. Drawing equally on her experiences of life on the rez and inner-city dwelling, she raps about everything from identity and spirituality to reconciliation and women’s rights. Even when she’s not on stage or in the studio, Eekwol (born Lindsay Knight) is using her platform to build community, advocate for change and speak out against inequality.
But don’t let the fact that she’s passionate, positive and proactive take away from her talent.
Since dropping her self-titled debut album in 1998, Eekwol has racked up a pile of awards and nominations, including Best Hip Hop/Rap Album at the 2005 Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards and the First Nations Award for Arts and Entertainment in 2008.
On Friday, Aug. 12, we’re stoked to present Eekwol at a lunch-time performance atop the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The free, all-ages show will be the fourth and final concert in Aboriginal Music Week’s AMW at Lunch series.
This will be your first time performing during Aboriginal Music Week. Why do you think a festival like this is so important for a city like Winnipeg, particularly the inner city?
It allows for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to see the talent that we have and instills a sense of pride through expression and creativity. Music is always good medicine for struggle, whether it be on the street or in the mind.
How did you get into hip hop, and who were some of your artistic influences?
When I was young I started listening to hip hop thanks to Rap City on MuchMusic. It blew my mind that there was a way to tell stories over a beat. I was hooked from Day One. My biggest influences in those days started as Tupac, Souls of Mischief, Hieroglyphics, Mobb Deep, Public Enemy. There’s so many to remember, but I know that the West-coast underground hip-hop artists became my ultimate influences in my late teens and early 20s.
What role do your indigenous roots play in your day-to-day life in general, and your music in particular?
I try to live in a good way and follow my Nehiyaw teachings. I was lucky to be exposed to ceremony at a very young age so it’s deeply instilled in me as a way to stay healthy and be proud of who I am. I stay away from negativity and things that can harm me. This all reflects in my music and lyrics as I tell stories of what I’ve experienced and the things that I am compassionate about.
Describe yourself in three words.
Compassionate, disciplined and fierce.
Is Eekwol just a name, or more of an alternative identity? Where does Lindsay Knight end and Eekwol begin?
Eekwol used to be Lowkee back in the day. I had to flip it around because others were trying to claim my name and writing really horrible graffiti tagging up the city. I had to switch it to something that would be original. It was an afterthought that it sounds like equality and being equal as a woman and an Indigenous person.
A lot of your music and spoken word deals with socio-political issues. Do you consider yourself an activist?
I guess I am, although I always believe that I’m just living with compassion — which is something that we should all be doing. As a capable, able-bodied human being, I can’t just sit around and wait for shit to happen. There are too many people out there that don’t have that option, whether they’re stuck in the cycle of inter-generational trauma-induced addictions, or committing slow suicide in other ways, or just trying to survive and take care of their kids (good child-raising is the ultimate act of resistance). I’d like to say I never judge, but I do smh at those that are capable and posting all up on social media without ever getting out there and helping with events, ceremonies, gatherings, etc. I don’t sit around playing Candy Crush when I could be out there with my kids crushing injustice and inequality. I’ve been blessed with a bit of attention for what I do, so I use it to try to be a voice for those that can’t speak.
What’s the highlight of your career so far?
Its hard to pick just one, as I’ve played shows in remote communities and music festivals around Turtle Island, and there have been so many amazing venues and hosts. Along with that, I’ve been able to meet some of the most talented musicians on the planet. I guess one highlight was opening for Buffy Sainte-Marie and then getting to meet and hang out with her afterwards. That was pretty intense, as she is one of the greats.
What are you currently working on, and what’s coming up in the next year?
I’m promoting my most recent release, Good Kill, which you can purchase on iTunes. I have a single I’m working on and hoping to drop in the next couple of months and just collaborating and doing features for different projects. Always busy!
What can people expect from an Eekwol performance?
Although I rap, I don’t perform like the mainstream rappers that most see on Youtube, etc. I use my experience as someone from this land, and that reflects in the performance. I try to be as original as my roots.
Which other artists are you looking forward to checking out during Ab Music Week?
Of course I’m crazy about Digging Roots and Boogey the Beat. Although, I’m excited to check out the ones that I haven’t had a chance to peep. I know that AMW always gets the best, so I’m guaranteed top-shelf performances by any artists that have been invited.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Shout out to Digital Drum and AMW for the opportunity for myself and all that have been invited through the years. It’s a rare and much-needed chance to showcase amazing talent from all over the turtle’s back!