Just in time for Thanksgiving, we’ve assembled a list of the most exciting Native American and Canadian First Nations artists currently making their way from all across this continent to our living rooms and into our ear buds. This list includes everything from contemplative folk and raw, truthful hip-hop to seething electronic jams, so sit back, relax, and treat yourself a heaping helping of incredibly unique musical artwork.
Nicholas Galanin (a.k.a., Sitka) is the musician and visual artist behind Alaska’s Silver Jackson and is also a member of the trio Indian Agent. When listening to Galanin’s delicate, haunting interpretation of folk music, it’s clear he’s found ways to let his intuition and sensibilities as a visual artist inform his music. There’s an avant-garde pop aspect to his electronic production that feels akin to the sounds of Animal Collective, and the album below features intriguing instrumental arrangements to accompany the soundscapes within.
A prominent voice on Native American issues, Gyasi Ross is an spoken-word artist and author. Known for his intuitive blending of hip-hop and poetry, Ross uses his thoughtful, provocative, and powerful songcraft to describe what being Native American is like in 2017. If you don’t get even the faintest trace of goosebumps while listening to his piece, “Harvard,” below, then you need to re-listen to it immediately after it ends.
Siblings Jeneda and Clayson Benally are Sihasin, a northern Arizona outfit that blends Native American vocal traditions as well as indigenous lyrical themes and perspectives with punk music. Though their music protests genocide and environmental degradation, it comes from a place of hope and unbridled optimism, and their sound can only be described as joyfully ecstatic.
Self-taught Metis Native American soul singer David Morin regularly performs internationally but still finds time to busk on the street when he can in his hometown of Vancouver. He recently released his debut album, Every Colour, on Bombay Records. We could’ve featured one of his originals, which are dope, but this live cover of Musiq Soulchild’s “Just Friends” is too good not to share.
Hailed as the “Dopest Alaskan since Santa Claus or Grizzlyman” by Diplo, Astronomar is one of the hardest-working musicians in the North American club scene. Describing his music as “pumping and disorienting soundscapes that exploit simplicity,” Astronomar has earned fans in the EDM community around the world.
A Tribe Called Red
Hailing from Ottawa, A Tribe Called Red is a trio known for their seamless blending of electronic and traditional Native American music. Referring to themselves as a DJ collective instead of a band, the music of A Tribe Called Red is unique, utterly compelling, and on the rise globally!
First Nations singer and songwriter Tara Williamson considers her music to be an unflinching document of her life. Her poetic interpretation of blues and folk music has earned her international attention and a spot on Canada’s National Aboriginal Music Countdown.
Led by singer and instrumentalist Shane Ghostkeeper, Calgary-based noise pop band Ghostkeeper’s windswept music is shaped by Alberta’s spectacular geography. With a knack for crafting unconventional song structures, Ghostkeeper knows how to use their music to tell a compelling story.
Known for her morose take on folk music, Oklahoma native Samantha Crain taught herself to sing and play the guitar when she was a teenager. She’s toured with everyone from the Avett Brothers to Langhorne Slim and is considered one of Oklahoma’s best musical exports.
We saved our favorite for last! The 2014 Polaris Prize winner Tanya Tagaq achieved something remarkable by bringing throat singing into the mainstream in the early 2000s. But never one to be boxed into a corner, Tagaq has also collaborated with world-renowned artists like the Kronos Quartet as well as Björk, and her powerful, haunting vocal abilities have made an indelible mark on Canadian music, possibly for many years to come, reaching into the genres of punk and contemporary ensemble music alike.
Looking to advance your skills and open up more opportunities in music? Explore Soundfly’s growing array of Mainstage courses that feature personal support and mentorship from experienced professionals in the field, such as Faders Up: Modern Mixing Techniques, Beat Making in Ableton Live, Orchestration for Strings, and Unlocking the Emotional Power of Chords.
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