'I really, really, really love dark, moody songs, that really emotional low-end sound.' - IsKwé
The votes have been tallied and the results are in. The Manitoba champion in CBC's Searchlight song competition is a trip hop/soul artist named IsKwé.
"I'm really excited, I'm kind of shocked," she said. "I feel like I'm sitting outside of my body watching it happen at the moment."
Of the 4,000 who initially entered, Winnipeg-born Iskwé is one of 24 performers now entered into the national round.
IsKwé comes from a mixed family of Cree/Dene and Irish. Her name means "woman," from her full Cree name which translates as Blue Sky Woman. "I opted to use it as my artist name because it's a reflection of a place in my spirit that I turn to when I'm in my creative zone," she said.
IsKwé grew up in a very musical and artistic family. "I was really immersed in it and really supported, as well."
She started dancing at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet at the age of five and continued all through high school, dancing up to six days a week before music finally took over.
She says she's always been a fan of the gritty, urban sort of trip hop sound that is her hallmark.
"I really, really, really love dark, moody songs, that really emotional low-end sound. My favourite instrument on the planet is the cello. The way the cello resonates in our ears is actually a reflection of the sound of sadness. I've always gravitated towards more of the melancholy," she said.
Her self-titled album, released in the fall of 2013, had an eight-year gestation period. Initially called The Many Faces of a Love Song, the music ranges "from happiness and contentment to the sensuality of the experience to the heartbreak to the frustration. All of those had a spot on the record," she said.
IsKwé says her aboriginal and Irish roots remain very important to her even if her music doesn't necessarily spring directly from those traditions.
"It's me. I grew up in my culture with my (aboriginal) mom and my mom's dad," she said. "That impacted me in terms of development of my character and my spirit."
While she didn't grow up with her biological father who was Irish, she explored and learned about her Irish culture and heritage as a teen and in her early 20s.
"That character development always impacts what you do as an artist later on. The identification of culture comes in my spirit. It's more about the inner workings of me," she said.
IsKwé remains deeply committed and active in the aboriginal community, performing and supporting other artists, but also engages with issues around land and the environment.
"With regard to music, I think that it's really important to stay grounded as an individual and have that keep you at a nice grassroots level in your community at all times. To me that's a life goal. I always like to be involved in any way I can," she said.
Voting for this round of CBC's Searchlight contest ends Monday, April 28, at 3 p.m. ET.