Singer dubbed 'Cree Rihanna' is looking to hit the big time

24 year-old Mariame Hasni has been performing in Cree communities since the age of 13. Now, with the help of a new record label, she is getting ready to release her debut album, Bloom.

Mariame is first artist signed to new N'we Jinan record label

Mariame Hasni, aged 24, is getting ready to launch her debut cd Bloom. (N'we Jinan )

She hopes one day to be known only as Mariame. 

24-year-old Mariame Hasni, born of a Cree mother and an Algerian father, lives in Montreal. And she has big musical aspirations.

Mariame was discovered by her grade six principal while singing in the school washroom. (N'we Jinan)

"It was like baby steps....It started with being discovered in the bathroom in elementary (school). The first step was my mother who put me in singing lessons. That's how it grew...slowly, slowly."

Hasni is a very well-known quantity in the Quebec Cree communities of James Bay, where she is sometimes called the Cree Rihanna. In 2013, she was given the Rising Star Award, by the Cree Native Arts and Crafts Association.  She has been touring all the communities of the territory since she was 13 years old. 

"Everybody's jaws dropped," said Hasni, when asked about her first performances.

"Everybody was just really surprised because I was like that kid who was quiet and shy...and didn't really say much, So (I got) a lot of attention. I wasn't used to that and the shyness went away." 

Now she is coming out of her shell even more, with the release of a first album entitled Bloom, which will be released on May 26th. 

On Tuesday, the first video from Bloom - As Long As You Are Here - was released.

"I am very proud of myself of where I am right now and how everything is going and how everything is growing," said Hasni. 

Aside from her own dreams and aspirations, Hasni is also carrying the aspirations of a brand new record label. She is the first artist signed to the N'we Jinan label.

The label grew out of a very popular music education program of the same name, which brought hip hop artist and music educator David Hodges into all the Cree communities in March of 2014. He brought a travelling studio and spent a few days in each Cree community mentoring youth in music production.

The N'we Jinan record label is looking to mentor First Nations talent in music production. ( N'we Jinan)

"One of the things that convinces me of wanting to work with an artist is raw talent ....giftedness," said Hodges.

"You are born with something that separates you from the rest. When I first heard Mariame, she had that."

The Cree Native Arts Crafts Association (CNACA) asked Hodges to produce Mariame Hasni's album. Hodges said it was a natural progression to start an actual record label.

N'we Jinan is now a partnership between Hodges, CNACA and Joshua Iserhoff, the Youth Grand Chief of the CNYC. 

There is so much room for career development and sustainability for the arts in First Nations communitiesDavid Hodges, music producer

Hodges says it was important to him to build on the success of the N'we Jinan music education program, which has produced a successful album, N'we Jinan Volume 1, and several videos.

"I believe that with the success of N'we Jinan Volume 1 came a moral keep building with the First Nation communities," said Hodges.

"I believe there is so much room for career development and sustainability for the arts in the First Nation communities, specifically in the Eeyou Istchee, but also building bridges with the other First Nations communities and the world."

Hodges says what they are learning recording, packaging and marketing Hasni's album Bloom will help other young artists as well. He says it's been a joy to work with Hasni, because she has talent, but also a willingness to work hard.

As a single mother to two young children — a boy named Malachi, and a girl, Tiara — Hasni says it hasn't always been easy.

"It's not easy being a single mother and trying to juggle my career as a singer and raise my kids, but it's possible," said  Hasni, adding she wouldn't be able to do it without the support of her mother, Elizabeth Napash.

"Somehow things work out if you really believe."

"It means so much to me for my kids to look up to me and to see me strive for what I love," said Hasni.

She recently performed in Montreal at a well-known venue, Club Soda.

"It was really different, everyone in the crowd was going crazy and I am not really used that, so it felt like I had more energy, like their energy was coming into my energy. It was a big deal for me (as) I don't usually perform in big events like that."

Her album, Bloomwill drop in iTunes on May 26, 2015.