Polaris Music Prize: The Indigenous Long List Nominees

While Canada’s Indigenous music scene may not always get the mainstream recognition it deserves, the Polaris Music Prize knows what’s up.

Widely considered one of the country’s most prestigious and coveted music awards (and judged solely on artistic merit, without consideration for genre, sales or record label), the Polaris has gone to three different Indigenous artists over the past four years. This year, a new group of artists are in a position to follow in the footsteps of Tanya Tagaq (Animism, 2014), Buffy Sainte-Marie (Power in the Blood, 2015) and Lido Pimienta (La Papessa, 2017) and take home the $50,000 prize.

Announced earlier this month, the 2018 Polaris Long List (40 albums selected by a 203-member jury) includes Iskwé, Jeremy Dutcher, Snotty Nose Rez Kids and YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN. The Short List of 10 will be announced July 17.

In the meantime, here’s what the Indigenous nominees had to say about their albums.

Iskwé The Fight Within

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On the album: The Fight Within is my second album and one that holds a big piece of my heart. This album reflects a bit of a grief cycle for me, as my community and myself personally experienced some pretty big moments in the years it took me to write.

On the nomination: The Polaris nomination is a HUGE honour! To be recognized by your peers in such a way just cuts right through to the heart, in the best way possible!

Jeremy Dutcher : Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa

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On the album: Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa is an exploration of the traditional songs of my nation collected on wax cylinders over 110 years ago. I have reimagined these melodies for the contemporary moment, in the hopes of reconnecting my people (Wolastoqiyik) with what has been taken. 

On the nomination: I was shocked. So many amazing artists have been nominated and won this prize, and I certainly was not expecting to be counted among them as I release my first record. I also was very intentional about doing this album entirely in the Wolastoqey language, so that people are connecting with it outside of the community has been a really nice surprise. 

Snotty Nose Rez Kids : The Average Savage

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On the album: For some people, The Average Savage is the unsettling feeling you get after hearing the roaring cry of a Bucquis (Sasquatch) pierce through a dark tree line. A feeling that stems from the lack of understanding of the existence of each other. For others, The Average Savage is realizing that it’s OK for the Bucquis to coexist.

On the nomination: We never anticipated this album to get all this recognition. The Polaris Long List? Are you kidding me?! We lost our sh*t when we found out!

YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN : Dirt

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On the album: The album was conceived as the soundtrack for an unreleased Haudenosaunee and Buddhist themed Anime. It’s a sarcastic album with a sci-fi plot, featuring a quest for arable soil on a flooded planet stewarded by a vengeful AI who exposes humanity’s fatal flaws. I get to bring together a variety of vocal influences for this album, from spaghetti westerns, to 80’s power metal and pow wow pitches. – Ange Loft, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan

On the nomination: We were on tour in Europe when we learned about the nomination and were also hearing news about trade wars and human right violations against Central American children in the U.S. When we first composed the album lyrics as a group, over two years ago, I was hesitant to speak some of the more pointed lyrics, such as: “You need the cage, the mine, and the blood on the stone. You need the mills, the rags and the people you own.” In our current political and moral climate, these words don’t feel strong enough. This record speaks to the ongoing doom and dread Indigenous populations know intimately that the U.S. and Canada were built upon. If this nomination provides a platform to bring some thought to Indigenous, immigrant and environmental issues, we will be satisfied. It’s an honour to be nominated alongside many other Indigenous artists who are making resistance art rock. – Ange Loft, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan

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