Winnipeg's own IsKwé is back in town for a show at the Park Theatre on July 30. The soul/trip-hop singer now resides in Toronto, but she credits her Winnipeg roots for helping to shape the artist that she is.
'There's that spirit of me that comes out through the visual arts as well as the music.' -IsKwé
"I find the arts community in Winnipeg to be the most interesting that I've experienced in Canada," she said.
"I really feel like people have the freedom to do art in a way that is less corporate and more grassroots and from the heart, and that results in some fantastic artists that then, because it's been nurtured in your home community, you have that strength and that undercurrent and that support behind you to go out and take it other places."
People in other places are taking notice. The Grid TO called her "One to Watch," CBC Music included her in its Top 10 Canadian Musicians You Need to Know and she was voted a regional finalist of CBC Music's recent Searchlight competition. Her song Slack Jaw was also recently listed as No. 1 on the National Aboriginal Music Countdown.
"It's been amazing. I've been working on music for so long, so to get some recognition and such a warm response has felt so nice," she said.
Her mixed heritage of Irish and Cree/Dene comes through in her music, but in subtle ways. Sampled drum beats, for example, could represent either an aboriginal drum or an Irish bodhrán.
IsKwé, who is also a painter, says her distinctive glittery makeup is a further reflection of her background and her interest in art.
"Incorporating some sort of visual with the sound is supposed to reflect that element of culture where things aren't always obvious," she said.
"Sometimes it's nice to be able to subtly battle some of the expectations of what would be indigenous, what would be femininity, what would be normal makeup versus face paint versus just paint and creation. I like to play with that a little bit and there's that spirit of me that comes out through the visual arts as well as the music."
IsKwé performs at the Park Theatre on July 30 at 9:00 p.m. The Vikings open the show.