Thunder Bay

International Indigenous Music Summit moves to new online model, adds new element

International Indigenous Music Summit brings the normal in-person festival online, but this time with a new element to it.

“Giiwewizh” which means “to carry home” in Anishinaabemowin is a collection of short docs

A performance at a previous International Indigenous Music Summit. This year, they've moved to an online model. (Supplied by International Indigenous Music Summit)

The International Indigenous Music Summit is getting ready to kick off, but this time with a virtual twist.

The summit is an event to create awareness about Indigenous artists, as well as opportunities and sharing resources.

Due to the pandemic, the usual in-person gathering has shifted to an online platform with a new element being added to the five-day festival called "Giiwewizh," which means "to carry home" in Anishinaabemowin.

With this new element, Indigenous artists who were isolating at their homes created short docs to bring storytelling and music performances. 

ShoShona Kish, who is Anishinaabe, is the founder and artistic director for the summit, and says they didn't want to limit anything because "everything is so weird and crazy."

Aysanabee is one of many artists showcased for International Indigenous Music Summit's new component Giiwewizh. (Supplied by International Indigenous Music Summit)

"We thought, 'what is the opportunity at the centre of this?' Where we could do something special that we couldn't maybe otherwise do and if things were operating as a normal," said Kish.

"We were thinking about just how profound this moment is, as we are all being called home and making our home wherever we are … whether we're in our home community or we're in a place of work or we're somewhere in between right now. We thought we would celebrate that relationship to place."

Kish says this project resulted in a series of short docs from artists and a sort of "time capsule" of this current moment.

Multiple artists were a part of this project, including musicians Classic Roots and Aysanabee.

Throughout the pandemic, Aysanabee, an Oji-Cree Toronto-based musician, started thinking about his family history and his responsibility to get to know it. He realized how important it was when he was talking with his grandfather on the phone.

Classic Roots is one of the artists showcased for Giiwewizh, the new component for the festival. (Supplied by International Indigenous Music Summit)

"I could hear he was starting to forget … details and sentences. So, I kind of had the sense of urgency to go back into his past, hear his stories so that they don't get lost. Cause that's, you know, that's our history," said Aysanabee.

Throughout the past year, he's been working on an album and interviewing his grandfather to get as much information from him as he could and turning it into an album which tells his story.

He says a few songs haven't been released yet, but he is excited to do so through the release of this project for the summit.

For Classic Roots, who is from Thunder Bay but based in Toronto, he says he loves exploring new things and seeing other Indigenous artists out there "making it work online."

He kept seeing the ad for submissions pop up on his Instagram, and originally thought he would hold off on it and maybe apply the next year, giving other people a chance. It wasn't until the submissions got extended that he thought he would give it a try.

"I was really curious because I know I always loved the challenge myself when it comes to the situation where showcasing new things and especially when I'm composing right now … Like I've been really non-stop working on these two new tracks that I made," said the Ojibway musician.

"This was a showcase that I wanted to put myself out there, especially being isolated and especially if we have nowhere else to go at the moment."

With the summit going online, Kish says it also gives people unique opportunities to tell stories in a different way on a different platform, and even to carry them into spaces that otherwise wouldn't be able to witness.

"Organizations around the world [are able] to show these films and people can join us from, you know, virtually coming from Australia and South America, and Mexico, and Sweden, and Norway," said Kish.

"Coming together online can be a bit more accessible. And that maybe these stories can travel in a unique and broad way, that might not have been possible if it was having to put together a big tour with all of these artists."

Though these short docs won't be available until the summit begins from June 8-12, registration is available for those who may be interested.