Six Power Couples Owning the Indigenous Music Scene

Oftentimes, mixing business with pleasure is a recipe for disaster. But every now and then it can be a formula for inspiration, happiness and success. And even love.

For a select group of Indigenous musicians, mixing their artistic pursuits with romance has paid off in a big way – both personally and professionally. As partners in both business and life, they’ve accomplished more than they ever would have alone and achieved that perfect balance between successful careers and happy home lives. And, fortunately for us, they’ve created some killer music in the process.

Here’s a look at six power couples currently owning the Indigenous music scene.

ShoShona Kish and Raven Kanatakta, Digging Roots

If you’ve had the pleasure of seeing Digging Roots live in concert, it becomes instantly clear that the chemistry between lead vocalist ShoShona Kish and guitarist Raven Kanatakta extends beyond just the music. That’s because their intimate connection is 20+ years in the making.

After meeting through a mutual friend and falling in love at first sight back in the 90s, they formed Digging Roots in 2004. Known for their soulful blend of roots, rock, folk and blues, the band has since released three albums, with another on the way.

Shane Ghostkeeper and Sarah Houle, Ghostkeeper

Over the years, Calgary indie group Ghostkeeper has blended genres, experimented with different sounds and evolved as a band. The one constant has been the creative core of long-time partners Shane Ghostkeeper and Sarah Houle.

While both of them grew up in Northern Alberta, surrounded by a mix of traditional Cree music and 90s indie rock, the Metis couple didn’t connect until their late teens, when their families played matchmaker. They have since set up a home studio to spend more time with their son and dropped four albums, including 2017’s Sheer Blouse Buffalo Knocks.

Crystle Lightning and MC RedCloud, Lightning Cloud

Crystle Lightning is a musician, an actress and a DJ (not to mention an amazing home chef!). MC RedCloud is a rapper, a visual artist and an Indigenous rights activist. Together, they make up Lightning Cloud, an unstoppable hip-hop duo with a pair of albums, multiple awards and thousands of fans behind them.

Based out of Los Angeles, the couple met at a photo shoot and immediately hit it off. In addition to making music together, they’ve been vocal advocates for the Idle No More movement, Indigenous womens’ rights and more.

Jayli and Hayden Wolf, Once A Tree

“The first day we met, we fell in love.”

So begins the story of Jayli and Hayden Wolf, who connected to make a music video and got married three months later. Since the wedding in 2012, the couple has formed electro-R&B duo Once A Tree, moved from B.C. to Toronto, and, most recently, dropped their debut full-length album, Phoenix. And after being named to Rolling Stone’s “10 New Artists You Need To Know” list this November, it looks like they’re just getting started.

Andrew Morrison and Nancy Mike, The Jerry Cans

Long before Andrew Morrison was belting out tunes in Inuktitut, he was learning the language for a girl. Morrison – who grew up in Iqaluit but didn’t speak the community’s mother tongue – had fallen for Inuk throat singer Nancy Mike and wanted to impress her family. The rest, as they say, is history.

In addition to falling in love and getting married, Morrison and Mike formed folk-roots group The Jerry Cans and launched the Aakuluk Music label. Recently named “Northerners of the Year” by Up Here Magazine, the band is not only making killer music, but preserving the Inuktitut language and paving the way for other Northern artists.

Chelsey June and Jaaji, Twin Flames

Looking back, it’s only fitting that Chelsey June and Jaaji met at a campfire singalong.

After that fateful night in summer 2014, the two abandoned their solo careers, fell in love and began making music together as Twin Flames. In less than four years, the folk duo has released a pair of albums, won multiple awards and played more than 700 shows across Canada.

But the couple’s connection goes far beyond the music. United by their common histories and Indigenous culture, Chelsey and Jaaji share a passion for working with youth and supporting remote Northern communities.

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.

(1987)

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