The music and voices emerging from Indigenous communities are some of the most groundbreaking and imaginative in Canada.
So, perhaps it's fitting that the name of the National Music Centre's (NMC) programming initiative for supporting early-career musicians from the Indigenous community is OHSOTO’KINO. OHSOTO’KINO is a Blackfoot phrase that means to recognize a voice of.
As a sponsor of this new programming initiative, TD is helping support not only the creation of original music in the Calgary-based NMC recording studios, but also artist development through a music incubator program at NMC and storytelling through NMC's annually-updated Speak Up! art exhibition and NMC’s Amplify digital platform.
From a 2022 JUNO Award-nominated traditional powwow and round dance artist, to a Cree pop-R&B singer-songwriter, scroll down for this year's recipients of the OHSOTO’KINO Recording Bursary and Music Incubator cohort.
The OHSOTO’KINO Recording Bursary
The OHSOTO’KINO Recording Bursary is open to all First Nations, Métis and Inuit artists. It provides access to NMC’s world-class recording studios in Calgary and its “living collection” of musical instruments, a historic collection spanning over 450 years, for a one-week recording session.
The talented Cree musician and drum-maker from Maskwacis, Alberta was born into a musical family. His father, Steve Wood, was one of the co-founders of the globally acclaimed Maskwacis-based powwow and Round Dance band, Northern Cree. Joel Wood was also a member of the group before pursuing a solo career. Following in his famous father’s footsteps, Joel is a growing musical star in his own right thanks to his acclaimed debut solo album, Singing Is Healing, which earned him a 2022 JUNO Award nomination for Traditional Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year.
“Language revitalization was part of the intention behind recording my new album and singing has always been a way for me to connect with my Cree language," Wood says. "If I can reach anyone through my music in a good way, where it’s inspiring others to look back on their language or it’s bringing joy, comfort, warmth – putting a smile on your face – then I know I’m doing my job."
Must-listen song: Listen to "Kôskona Pîkiskwewin" on Spotify.
Consisting of husband-and-wife duo Chelsey June and Jaaji, Twin Flames is a multi-award-winning, chart-topping Indigenous indie-folk/pop group. The pair use Indigenous Spirit flutes, traditional drums and other instruments, synthesizing harmonies and Inuit throat singing to create music that is both personal and accessible.
As part of OHSOTO’KINO, they're hoping to experiment.
“Having access to the living collection will be amazing to create and explore new sounds. Just knowing that we will be using incredible pieces of history to make new music is pretty magical," they say.
They use their platform to advocate for mental health, suicide prevention, sobriety, and healthy lifestyles.
Twin Flames say their music resonates across cultures, continents and styles and that they have long been celebrated for their sonic landscapes spanning Canada and the Arctic. That’s why they are the winners of four Canadian Folk Music Awards, three Native American Music Awards and three Summer Solstice Indigenous Music Awards.
Must-listen song: Stream "Battlefields" from the 2020 album Omen on Spotify.
OHSOTO’KINO Indigenous Music Incubator
The OHSOTO’KINO Indigenous Music Incubator is a five-day intensive artist development program for emerging artists from the Indigenous community. Each year, four to six artists from the Indigenous community converge at NMC to learn new skills, connect with music industry experts and hone their craft.
An Ojibway experimental jazz musician and member of the Animakee Wa Zhing #37 First Nation in Treaty 3, Chuck Copenace is one of an elite group of musicians from the Indigenous community who honour their traditional melodies by incorporating them into their work.
Now based in Winnipeg, Copenace composes and performs music that successfully unites creativity and spirituality. His unique sound is difficult to describe.
“It's all groove-based, trumpet-led, jazz fusion, but not with rock as the term jazz fusion implies," he says.
"I would say the term nu-jazz is a better fit, as my music is heavily influenced by R&B and electronic music, as well as elements of hip hop."
He has extensive experience performing at festivals across Canada and in parts of the U.S., in addition to numerous TV experiences.
Must-listen song: Stream “Appetites”, off of EP1 from 2017, on Spotify.
Métis singer-songwriter and guitarist Brandon Baker of Edmonton describes his music as Indigenous rock and roll with pop-leaning tendencies.
“I write stories from the lens of a modern, urban Métis person—stories about love in all its baffling, complex simplicity; about drugs, dreams, and desires; about leaving and being left; and the way I interact with the world around me," he says.
He's received myriad accolades for his work: Alberta's Radio Network CKUA named his 2021 album Tragic Lover as one of the top albums of the year. His single "One More Night" was number one on the Indigenous Music Countdown (IMC) and received an honourable mention for Best Music Video at the International Music Video Awards. "Revolution" off his 2018 album Yeah, Yeah, No also rose to the top of the Indigenous Music Countdown and snagged a spot in the 2019 CBC Searchlight Top 100.
Must-listen song: Stream "Hard Skin" on Spotify.
This Cree singer-songwriter describes her sound as “Lizzo colliding with Ariana Grande.”
Originally from Treaty 8 First Nations, but now living in Edmonton, she already has four albums under her belt. She’s also a two-time Edmonton Music Award Nominee for Indigenous Recording of the Year.
Melody has had more than ten singles chart on the IMC and reached number one on the JUKASA Radio Top 40 (a radio station out of Ohsweken, Ontario.) for her single "Learn to Breathe" off her 2021 album, Rising Waters.
Working at the NMC is incredibly meaningful to her.
“I used to attend many Calgary Flames games and the Calgary Stampede was a yearly tradition," she says.
"I would walk by the National Music Centre and think, ‘How do I get involved?’ Then I switched my thinking to ‘one day I'll be in there’ not just as a visitor, but as an artist honing my craft. OHSOTO’KINO gave me the opportunity to do just that for the third time."
Must-listen song: Stream "Wildling" from her 2022 album Kizmet on Spotify.
Zoey Roy describes herself as a rebel with a cause. The Nehithaw-Dené and Michif spoken word and rap artist from the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation in Treaty 6 uses her music to teach, heal and celebrate creativity, resilience and resurgence.
She calls her music truthful hip hop.
"I have a passion for learning and giving," she says.
"It is through the expression of my creativity that I am able to be in flow with my life and those around me. My music, though sometimes challenging in the message, is light, airy and fun to take in sonically. My music is a soft landing for hard truths."
Now based in Kingston, Ontario, Roy has released two albums in the past two years. Made Up Made Up (2021) is a collection of cerebral rhymes that lays out her recovery journey through the pandemic. The second is a spoken word album called Zoetry (2022) that responded to a series of hypnotherapy sessions she embarked on as an act of recovery.
Must-listen song: Stream “Seething” off of the album Zoetry on Spotify.
Jade Turner is a gifted country artist who shares stories through her music. Raised in the northern communities of Manitoba and a member of the Misipawistik Cree Nation in Treaty 5, Jade shares, and supports, the Indigenous culture that inspires her.
For Turner, music helped her get through her experiences with bullying and gave her an outlet for self-expression. Her experience in the NMC incubator program has been essential to her growth as a musician.
“Being a part of OHSOTO’KINO was validating for me as an artist to continue creating music and being more involved in the music community," she says. "I love this crazy life and I love music’s ability to bring people together."
She has been recognized for her original songwriting and for her popular singles "Somehow Someone," "Hangover Blues" and "Worth."
Must-listen song: Stream her latest single, "Stay Wild Child", on Spotify.