If the 2017 Juno Awards served as a coming-out party for Canada’s thriving Indigenous music scene, the 2018 edition is a full-blown celebration.
One year after an epic opening performance by A Tribe Called Red (featuring Tanya Tagaq and Black Bear Singers) and big wins for ATCR, William Prince, Quantum Tangle and Buffy Sainte-Marie, a total of 10 Indigenous artists or groups are up for awards in seven different categories at this year’s event.
Leading the way with two nominations each – including Contemporary Roots Album of the Year – are The Jerry Cans and living legend Buffy Sainte-Marie. Riding the momentum of their latest album, Nunavut’s The Jerry Cans are also up for Breakout Group of the Year, while Buffy is up against DJ Shub (PowWowStep), Indian City (Here & Now), Iskwé (The Fight Within) and Kelly Fraser (Sedna) for Indigenous Music Album of the Year.
Following up on their Producer of the Year win in 2017, A Tribe Called Red scored a nom for Group of the Year, while Tanya Tagaq’s Retribution is up for Alternative Album of the Year. The Nunavut Sivuniksavut Performers are nominated for Classical Album of the Year (Large Ensemble), and Josh Cayer’s band Longhouse (II: Vanishing) is up for Metal/Hard Music Album of the Year.
Here’s a closer look at this year’s Indigenous Juno nominees:
The Jerry Cans
Nominated for: Contemporary Roots Album of the Year (Inuusiq); Breakout Group of the Year
Known regionally for their trademark mix of Inuktitut and English, The Jerry Cans’ unique fusion of folk, country, reggae and throat singing has earned the group gigs around the world and helped put Nunavut’s music scene on the map. Inuusiq is the band’s third album, and the first on their own label, Aakuluk Music.
Nominated for: Contemporary Roots Album of the Year; Indigenous Music Album of the Year (Medicine Songs)
At 77 years young, Buffy Sainte-Marie continues to prove that age is just a number. Mixing new material with classics spanning her entire career (Universal Soldier will NEVER get old), the 2017 release of Medicine Songs reminds us that her stories are as relevant and powerful today as they were half a century ago. With an Academy Award (1982), a Polaris Prize (2015) and five Junos already to her name, another award or two would just be gravy.
Nominated for: Indigenous Music Album of the Year (PowWowStep)
As a former member of A Tribe Called Red, DJ Shub got his first taste of the Junos when the trio won Breakthrough Group of the Year (and were nominated for Electronic Album of the Year) back in 2014. He has since launched a solo career and seems to be doing just fine. His debut album, PowWowStep, offers up a killer collection of upbeat bangers and features collaborations with Northern Cree Singers, Classic Roots and more.
Nominated for: Indigenous Music Album of the Year (Here & Now)
Winnipeg pop/rock supergroup Indian City are a perfect example of power in numbers. Fronted by guitarist Vince Fontaine, the collective has released three albums and also includes Jay Bodner, Don Amero, Shannon Mckenney, Jeremy Koz, Rena Semenko, Neewa Mason, Atik Mason, Rich Reid and Gerry Atwell. While this is the group’s first Juno nomination, Fontaine has four noms and a win as a member of iconic rock duo Eagle & Hawk.
Nominated for: Indigenous Music Album of the Year (The Fight Within)
We had to wait more than four years for the follow up to Iskwe’s self-titled debut album, but 2017’s The Fight Within was completely worth it. Touching on everything from environmental protection and MMIWG (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls) to love and relationships, she again manages to blend poignant lyrics with big sound for an album as timely as it is powerful. This is Iskwé’s first Juno nomination.
Nominated for: Indigenous Music Album of the Year (Sedna)
Also up for her first Juno is Nunavut songstress Kelly Fraser. Since bursting onto the scene with her Inuktitut versions of Top 40 pop songs in 2013, she has released a pair of albums and helped shine a light on Nunavut’s oft-overlooked music scene. Inspired by the Inuit legend of the sea goddess Sedna, her latest album combines Inuktitut and English while fusing elements of pop, electronic music, throat singing and hip-hop for an upbeat (though not always glamorous) portrait of life in the North.
A Tribe Called Red
Nominated for: Group of the Year
It was only four years ago that ATCR won the Juno for Breakout Group of the Year. Now, despite losing one of their founding members (Ian Campeau aka DJ NDN) last year, the group has established itself as a household name not only in Canada but around the world. Since dropping We Are The Halluci Nation in 2016, they have won a number of awards (including the 2017 Juno for Producer of the Year), made the Polaris short list and played festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo, Osheaga and more.
Nominated for: Alternative Album of the Year (Retribution)
Awards in general, and the Junos in particular are nothing new to Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq. Since 2006, she has been nominated five times and won twice. She also took home the coveted Polaris Music Prize and a Canadian Folk Music Award for her third album, Animism (2014). But her latest offering, Retribution, may just be her most powerful work to date. Experimental, bold, genre-bending and tradition-obliterating, albums like this are why the Alternative Album of the Year category exists.
The Nunavut Sivuniksavut Performers
Nominated for: Classical Album of the Year (Large Ensemble)
Nominated for their collaboration with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra on The Shaman & Arctic Symphony, the Nunavut Sivuniksavut Performers is an Ottawa-based college program that serves Inuit youth from across Canada's north.
Josh Cayer (Frontman of Longhouse)
Nominated for: Metal/Hard Music Album of the Year (II: Vanishing)
This is the first Juno nomination for Algonquin artist Josh Cayer, the bassist/vocalist for Ottawa doom band Longhouse. II: Vanishing is the group’s second studio album.
The 2018 JUNO Awards go down in Vancouver on March 25.
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This article was originally published on digitaldrum.ca. Reproduced with permission from the author.