Sunday September 10, 2017

Indigenous artist IsKwé shares her inspiration for music

IsKwé shares her inspiration for her work on this week's episode of Unreserved on CBC Radio One.

IsKwé shares her inspiration for her work on this week's episode of Unreserved on CBC Radio One. (Nat Caine)

Listen to Full Episode 54:00

This episode originally aired May 21, 2017

She's received international recognition, but for Indigenous artist IsKwé, it's about more than making catchy music and collecting accolades.

The Winnipeg-bred Hamilton-based singer-songwriter weaves her cultures in a sound that combines jazz, trip-hop and R  & B.

The Cree/Dene and Irish IsKwé wants to shine a light on the violence against Indigenous women in Canada.

Horrified by the slaying of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, and inspired by a community coming together after the tragedy, she wrote Nobody Knows, a song she hopes will encourage women to speak up.

"People need to recognize this as a human issue, as a world issue this isn't just an Indigenous problem," IsKwé, says.

"It's devastating for a million reasons."

IsKwé co-authored a graphic novel with author David A. Robertson, her cousin Aaron Leslie and illustrator Greg Chomichuk that's based on Nobody Knows. It is called Will I See?

IsKwé's path to becoming a musician came after growing up in art circles — something she now combines with her singing.

"I feel like I found this nook in myself and this way to branch and build in all these different outlets," she says.

IsKwé also has a distinct identity.

She recalls going to a photo shoot and telling the photographer she didn't just want to be "pretty."

"I didn't want the photo shoot to reflect sort of standard images of what beauty is for women, because I didn't identify with that. It didn't feel comfortable for me and so together we sort of created this creature."

That set a new look and identity for the artist and from there she continued to build more creatures that represented her spirit.

"Now I feel like I found this nook in myself and this way to branch and build in all these different outlets."

stories from this episode