Digging Roots lets love lead in life, music and ceremony

ShoShona Kish and Raven Kanatakta are the duo behind Digging Roots, a band best described as roots, rock, soul-folk and blues.
ShoShona Kish and Raven Kanatakta are the duo behind Digging Roots. (Ratul Debnath)

It was love at first sight for this couple and ever since that fateful day 20 years ago, they've been making beautiful music together.

ShoShona Kish and Raven Kanatakta are the musical duo behind Digging Roots, a band best described as roots, rock, soul-folk and blues.

Kish's sultry and powerful vocals complement Kanatakta's bombastic guitar, rising and falling in harmony from smokey wails to whispered intimacy.

"The true story is that he just showed up on my doorstep one day and I had no idea who he was. But there was this gorgeous Anishinabe standing there so I let him in," recalled Kish of meeting her future husband.

Kanatakta added thatt a mutual friend had told him about a new musician who had just moved to Ottawa he had to meet.

"He just wrote on a little note, 'ShoShona' and then wrote an address," he said. "I just knocked on the door and then walked in."

The rest, they say, is history. The couple formed the band in 2004, and released their first album, Seeds, two years later. They followed with We Are in 2009, which featured collaborations with Tanya Tagaq, DJ Bear Witness of A Tribe Called Red and Kinnie Starr — who also produced the album. Their third record, For the Light, was released in 2014.
The band's latest album is called For The Light. (Facebook)

To see the couple play live is to witness the beautiful love story between them. Unfortunately, said Kanatakta, that is not always welcome.

"We keep getting people saying we are a little too sexy on stage," he explained, particularly from audiences in Canada.

"It's mostly directed at me," said Kish who stressed while she is not wearing tiny booty shorts and twerking, the married duo's flirtatiousness and her sensuality sometimes makes people uncomfortable.

"I think there is a narrow idea of — still — about who I am supposed to be and who we are supposed to be as Indigenous women. And if we step outside of that and express things that makes people uncomfortable in some way then all of a sudden there's this backlash to it."

Digging Roots' live show is high energy, flirty and sensual. (Mike Bourgeaul)
But Kish said it doesn't affect the way she performs, instead she takes it as a challenge.  

"Maybe this is a button that needs to be pushed."

The duo have let love lead them in life, music and in dealing with difficult times. In June, a lone gunman killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Then in July, two African-American men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were shot and killed by police. In response, Digging Roots wrote and recorded AK-47, a call to peace and hope.

"It struck at my humanity," said Kish of the violence. "The primary idea [of AK 47] is that I wish I could load love into a gun and I wish that the power of love could reach people with that impact," she said.

"Maybe violence is productive in preserving or attaining power but violence never creates peace."