Hey! Raven and Shoshona brought home a Juno! Best aboriginal album of the year! Amazing, isn’t it?
We are… that’s the name of the album that garnered this incredible honour, an honour not borne from numbers of records sold but for craft, for sheer artistic endeavour. Nothing to do with cha-ching in the music store, though there’s lots of that coming along, too.
Sounds instant, this honour, but for more than half their lives, this 34 year old couple has been writing, playing, recording, perfecting a sound that embraces their Anishinabe culture and knits it to the rest of this country’s incredible diversity.
“The Anishinabe people (our people) were nomadic. They would gather on an island or a beach. Songwriters would look at the horizon; the tree line, the hillscape would go up and down and their drums would reflect that… they’d melodically follow the line of the sky.
“For the past 5 years we’ve been taking panoramic pictures of horizons as we travel. We stitched them together in photoshop, 3000 of these pictures, and used these incredible horizon melodies to create music based on our travels across the country.
“We are… is music that comes from the land we’ve travelled,” says Raven Kanatakta. He and his incredibly talented singing partner, ShoShona Kish, offer 10 songs on this album, padded the traditional aboriginal melodies with contemporary music… reggae, blues, hip hop… it’s an incredible blend. It’s also an influence of Raven’s music training from Berklee in Boston.
Hear it yourself… You Tube, Digging Roots, or Google Digging Roots, or www.diggingrootsmusic.com. Their record label is Odeimin Music, an aboriginal reference to the heart-shaped strawberry, heartbeat music, giver of life.
The couple, who live in a Barrie subdivision and deal with the same everyday issues as all of us with 14 and 9 year old boys, use their living room as their spontaneous, creative centre, and a private, east end recording studio as their professional production facility. They’re very private about this because it takes intense focus to get the most out of their day.
They embrace every bit of social media, including twitter, blogs, myspace, facebook and a website that is constantly changing. Their music is distributed by Outside Music and is available in music stores across the country. You can also buy it online at itunes, Amazon, and all the typical online music salespoints.
For this couple, the real change in their lives is performances. Like every group, they began in bars, tiny venues, outdoor festivals, charging less often than it cost them to get there and do the gig. Raven says: I used the principle to charge what we need to. It would cost me $X so I’d charge that as a minimum. No difference today, for these Juno award winners, but their standard fee is $6500 and frequently doubles. They played in downtown Vancouver right after the crazy hockey game where Canada took the gold. They’ve done Canada AM and reached millions.
Right now, they’re acting as their own managers and booking agents because they prefer to build strong, personal relationships. They do a number of performance shows for APTN, Aboriginal People’s Television Network.
Raven blesses the Canadian Content Legislation that has so enriched this country’s music industry. His fervent wish now is that radio airplay will open up to truly reflect the incredible musical diversity in this country.
Their music idols continue to energize and inspire them, beginning with Buffy Sainte-marie, and Migmaw Willie Dunn with his remarkable political music. Robbie Robertson and Ulali (a group of 3 female singers) favour heavily in their hearts.
Raven and ShoShona are off to a series of concerts in Australia in the couple of weeks. Their sons will travel with them this time, helping backstage and absorbing incredible culture in the process.
ShoShona? Raven? Thanks.