Canadian Folk Music Awards: Meet the 2017 Indigenous Nominees

Since launching in 2005, the Canadian Folk Music Awards have been on a mission to celebrate and promote the best of Canada’s folk scene. They’ve also made a concerted effort to showcase the country’s top Indigenous singer-songwriters.

“The fact that this is important to us is self-evident,” said Grit Laskin, president of the CFMAs. “In our minds, the original peoples of this land deserve all the exposure and recognition possible.”

While Indigenous artists are welcome to submit for any award, that exposure and recognition is most conspicuous in the Aboriginal Songwriter of the Year category. Past winners include the likes of Don Amero, Nancy Mike of The Jerry Cans, Digging Roots and Twin Flames – all of whom have established successful and prosperous music careers.

Raven Kanatakta and ShoShona Kish of Digging Roots won Aboriginal Songwriter of the Year in 2015.

Raven Kanatakta and ShoShona Kish of Digging Roots won Aboriginal Songwriter of the Year in 2015.

But over the years, Indigenous artists have become more prevalent in the mainstream categories as well. In 2016, Winnipeg’s William Prince picked up a nomination for Contemporary Singer of the Year, while the wife-husband duo of Nadia Gaudet and Jason Burnstick got a nod for Children’s Album of the Year.

This year’s awards show, slated for Nov. 18-19 in Ottawa, has a total of seven Indigenous nominees in four categories. Nunavut’s The Jerry Cans are nominated for Ensemble of the Year, and the fearless Tanya Tagaq is up for the ‘Pushing the Boundaries’ award, which she won back in 2014.

Twin Flames, who will also perform at the event, lead the way with three nominations; they are up for Vocal Group of the Year, World Group of the Year and have an opportunity to become the first back-to-back winner in the Aboriginal Songwriter of the Year category.

Here’s a closer look at all of this year’s Indigenous Nominees:

Twin Flames

Nominated for: Aboriginal Songwriter of the Year; Vocal Group of the Year; World Group of the Year (Signal Fire)

Individually, they are Jaaji, an Inuk/Mohawk man from Nunavik, and Chelsey June, a Métis woman from Ottawa. Together, they are Twin Flames. Singing in English, Inuktitut, and French, the power couple blends folk music with Indigenous elements for a sound that captivates, inspires and connects.

Cindy Paul

Nominated for: Aboriginal Songwriter of the Year (The Flight)

Hailing from Northern Alberta, Cindy Paul has picked up nominations from the Prairie Music Awards, the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards and most recently the 2016 Native American Music Awards. Her rich vocals and heartfelt lyrics combine to educate listeners, honour her culture and heal the soul.

Desiree Dorion

Nominated for: Aboriginal Songwriter of the Year (Tough Street)

Working from a place of honesty and emotion, Manitoba’s Desiree Dorion crafts relevant country songs as genuine as they are memorable. Drawing from her inspiration as a woman and a mother, her fourth studio album, Tough Street, is her most vulnerable work to date.

Julian Taylor Band (Julian Taylor, Kinnie Starr, John Parente, Bill Bell)

Nominated for: Aboriginal Songwriter of the Year (Desert Star)

Staying true to their Toronto roots, the Julian Taylor Band serves up a sound as flavourful, diverse and inspired as the city itself. Blending a little rock, a little R&B, and a whole lotta soul, their music has personality for days. Guaranteed to make you smile, dance or both.

Lisa Muswagon

Nominated for: Aboriginal Songwriter of the Year (Buffalo and Rabbits)

Since receiving her first hand drum at a young age, Pimicikamak Cree Nation’s Lisa Muswagon has been using traditional Indigenous music to tell stories about culture, identity and nature. Her album, Buffalo and Rabbits, earned her a 2017 Indigenous Music Award nomination for Best New Artist.

The Jerry Cans

Nominated for: Ensemble of the Year (Inuusiq)

The Jerry Cans may just be the hottest thing out of Nunavut these days. Known regionally for their trademark mix of Inuktitut and English, they offer an authentic glimpse of life in Canada’s North while tackling some of society’s most universal issues. And they do it in the most entertaining way possible.

Tanya Tagaq

Nominated for: Pushing the Boundaries (Retribution)

Fierce. Bold. Experimental. It is for artists like Tanya Tagaq that the CFMA’s ‘Pushing the Boundaries’ award was created. Although she’s best known as a throat singer and winner of the 2014 Polaris Music Prize, she’s also a vocal activist for environmental protection, Indigenous rights and more.

This year’s Canadian Folk Music Awards go down in Ottawa Nov. 18-19. For the full list of nominees and more information visit www.folkawards.ca.

This post originally appeared as a guest contribution for Stingray Music. Stingray recently announced a content partnership with APTN and First Peoples Radio Inc. to promote Aboriginal music from Canada. Check out their Aboriginal Music From Canada – Contemporary channel and their Aboriginal Music From Canada – Retro channel.

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