Indigenous pop/rock artist iskwe is making the most of February with new shows, new songs and a new studio album later in 2019. The Hamilton-based singer says it marks a creative turning point in her career, departing somewhat from her previous album The Fight Within.
“You’re going to have some heavier sounds,” she says. “I’ve really been finding my footing with the band that I’ve been playing with and we’ve been really working together nicely. So I think there’s room for some of their voices on this record as well which is really nice. It’s going to be heavy, it’s going to rock and smash and be awesome.”
The singer, performing at Toronto’s Mod Club on Feb. 23, is offering a taste of the new as-yet-untitled album on Valentine’s Day when she releases the single “Little Star.” It’s a tune inspired by Cree astronomy she hopes to share with her fans while also addressing pressing social issues.
“We have these teachings that we are descendants of what we call the Star People. So when you look up into the sky and you’re seeing the constellations you’re seeing what folks will refer to as shooting stars or falling stars. You’re actually looking at these different spaces of the walking world here on earth to the sky world and what exists beyond. So when you’re seeing shooting stars and falling stars you’re watching the comings and goings between the walking world and the sky world.
“But then the flip side of this song is that it is in response to a lot of the headlines that were taking place last winter during the murder trials of Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine. There were instances where these youth were not treated with the respect that I feel all children and all youth and all people deserve, especially after their time here in the walking world has passed or ended.”
In 2018 iskwe also saw her song “The Unforgotten” used in a unique CBC Music Class Challenge where different classes across the country covered the song.
“It was really, really wonderful to see,” iskwe says. “It was interesting because I was watching some of them with my mom and we were talking about here’s this song where in the middle of the song it breaks out into Ojibwa and that Ojibwa is calling, the lyrics in that section are calling in the spirits to help heal the people.
“It’s being sung in the Objibwa language and some of the schools that were sending in their submissions, some of them were Catholic schools for instance. It was really amazing to see that shift, that exists where we have this relationship that has been up and down and strained and all of these different sensations over time. Students from these schools that are not indigenous are being taught indigenous language. Even if it’s such a small amount but it’s still that seed has been planted. To me, that’s so valuable and so promising and so exciting to see.”
iskwe also feels she doesn’t consider herself a mentor but hopes to inspire youth with her art.
“I think it’s always important for us to have folks who are pushing boundaries and pushing limits and trying new things. I would like to hope that I can at least show folks that it’s possible, it’s possible to follow your dreams. I’m not saying that any of those things are easy but they are definitely possible and we all have our different experiences and hurdles in life. We are strong, we are capable we are just as good as everybody else.”
The musician plans to tour in support of the new album set for release later in 2019. She also says she’s looking forward to the Toronto date and all the ins and outs of putting the show together.
“It’s a lot of what’s going to be on this next album we’ll be performing,” she says. “The performance itself is going to be fairly immersive for the audience, it’s going to be a bit of a departure from a regular rock concert. People can expect to have all of their senses entertained.”