The songs come from there. If you were to chant the melodies, they'd sound quite traditional -- but it's blues tones I see in the land.
—Raven Kanatakta, musician
Close your eyes and imagine a horizon line. A forest or a mountain range, perhaps.
Anishinabe people would tell you there are melodies to be found in those peaks and valleys. Toronto Aboriginal collective Digging Roots -- led by husband-wife duo Raven Kanatakta and ShoShona Kish -- used those traditional 'song lines' to craft the tracks that make up their forthcoming full-length album, Love Drive, the follow-up to 2010's Juno award-winning We Are.
The pair had plenty of varied landscapes to work with, having spent the better part of the last three years touring through Canada, Europe (including the Canadian and Norwegian arctic), U.S., Mexico and Australia.
"We'll be somewhere and I'll use my iPhone or camera to take a panoramic of the scenes around me -- whether it's a cityscape or the mountains in B.C. or treelines in a forest," Kanatakta explains.
"The songs come from there. If you were to chant the melodies, they'd sound quite traditional -- but it's blues tones I see in the land."
The new album, which is due out in spring 2014, "is a mixture of blues, reggae and Anishinabe music," Kanatakta says. "We have a bit more chanting and we use the Anishinabe language more. We're not a traditional pow wow band but we wanted to integrate it in a way that felt natural to us."
As its title suggests, Love Drive
also includes more love songs.
"We've written a lot of political songs, talking about making it through to the other side of a colonial history," he says. "But then we started writing love songs and talking about why we were writing songs. I love singing about the good fight and survival but, to be able to do that, you need love. We needed that."
In many ways, Love Drive
is a love letter to the people Digging Roots met on their travels. "We heard their stories. We shared in their food," he says. "We went to all these places, and we were driven by love."
The band's journey comes to Winnipeg this week for Aboriginal Music Week, of which Kanatakta is thrilled to be a part. He credits AMW executive director and Aboriginal Music Manitoba's chairperson, Alan Greyeyes -- who was honoured with a Future Leaders of Manitoba Award earlier this year -- with creating a forward-thinking event.
"He's got a great work ethic and he sees the bigger picture," Kanatakta says. "He also knows where he comes from but he's able to see from the point of view of a younger generation. He's not part of that old boys club. He's turned things into a celebration. That makes a positive statement and it helps create good relationships between Indigenous people and Canadians.
"Good relations come from celebrations," he laughs.Digging Roots performs at the Pyramid Cabaret on August 16 at 9 p.m.