‘Holeh, that was good’; Juno Awards celebrate Indigenous artists

Juno 2023 events kick off this weekend in Edmonton, Alta. where Indigenous artists were celebrated

The annual Juno Awards honoured Indigenous artists in a run-up to the television broadcast Monday night.

Forty-two awards were handed out on the weekend of March 11-12.

Last year, the Canadian music awards show introduced two new categories for Indigenous artists and groups, making way for more emerging musicians to earn recognition.

The list of nominees is available on the Juno Awards 2023 website.

At the pre-broadcast ceremony at the Edmonton Convention Centre, the band Digging Roots won contemporary Indigenous group of the year for their album Zhawenmin.

Digging Roots couple ShoShona Kish and Raven Kanataka win contemporary artist of the year. Photo: iPhoto/CARAS

Digging Roots First Nations couple ShoShona Kish and Raven Kanataka work together as a writing team. Their son Skye Polson is also in the band.

The duo says they have been inspired to create music by their traditional teachings as well as a mixture of roots, blues, jazz and other forms of music. This is their second Juno award since 2010.

“In Anishinaabe, Zhawenim means unconditional love. And I feel like those teachings of unconditional love come first and foremost from our first mother (in the Anishinaabe creation story).

“And so, it’s like a love song for the land, but also for our community and it is about dreaming into the future,” said Kish.

Traditional artist 

The Bearhead Sisters, a Nakoda Sioux (Stoney) music group from Paul First Nation located about an hour west of Edmonton, won traditional artist or group of the year for their album Unbreakable.

Sisters Allie, Trina and Carly Bearhead perform traditional First Nations pow-wow music.

The trio performed at the honouring ceremony, which was held to celebrate all of the Indigenous nominees on opening night.

Allie Bearhead says she dreamed of this moment from the time she was a little girl.

“To win a Juno…I’m praying for days like this for us since we were little girls, not seeing many indigenous artists, Indigenous people be a part of big platforms.

“I didn’t tell the girls about it but I always prayed for it.”

They also took a moment to thank their fans.

“We have built a little fan base on Facebook, and we have been doing a lot of promoting our music and not realising that our music has not only touched our Indigenous communities but also worldwide.

“So for them, ‘Thank you for supporting us through everything’, because without them we wouldn’t really be there,” said Allie.

Celeigh Cardinal performs at The Starlight Room. Photo: Danielle Paradis, APTN News

Indigenous record label 

Sunday night Ishkode Records, a new Indigenous women-owned label created to amplify and advocate for Indigenous artists, hosted the Fire Starter JUNOFest showcase in downtown Edmonton.

The company is led by Kish (Digging Roots) and solo artist Amanda Rheaume.

“It was so powerful to have so many incredible Indigenous artists all on one bill. The energy in the room was electric, you could feel it,” Rheaume told APTN News.

Solo artist Amanda Rheaume performs at The Starlight Room in Edmonton. Photo: Danielle Paradis, APTN News

They held an event in downtown Edmonton that showcased the talent of Indigenous artists.

“Holeh, that was good,” said emcee Tonia Jo Hall to a large crowd at the Starlight Room.

Celeigh Cardinal kicked off the evening. The First Nations singer-songwriter brought a mix of comedy and tragedy into the evening with her song “Don’t waste your love on me.”

“It’s about someone who still calls me a lot,” said Cardinal.

“He hasn’t yet heard the song but when he does, he will absolutely know it is for him.”

The night alternated between a music hall and a more intimate singer-songwriter space.

Alyssa Delbaere-Sawchuck plays fiddle for Amanda Rheaume at The Starlight Room in Edmonton. Photo: Danielle Paradis, APTN News

Inuit throat singers Kathleen Ivaluarjuk Merritt and Charlotte Angugaattiaq Qamaniq, who make up the musical duo Iva and Angu, taught the audience about throat singing.

“The songs are hundreds, maybe even thousands of years old. And no one knows how it started,” said Qamaniq.

Throat singing can also imitate wind, water, animal sounds and other everyday sounds, she added.

Musical duo Iva and Angu, Inuit throat singers, perform at The Revival House in Edmonton. Photo: Danielle Paradis, APTN News

The two released the album Katajjausiit in 2022 and received a nomination for Traditional Indigenous Artist of the Year.

Artists Rheaume, Aysanabee, Cardinal, Digging Roots, Fawn Wood, Iva and Angu, Morgan Toney, Rellik and Sechile Sedare all performed.

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