Each year the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards—a celebration of artists in Canada that is hosted as part of the Manito Ahbee Festival—recognizes more than 20 Native musical artists in every genre and musical style.
Over the weekend we highlighted five of the winners, with samples of their work. But there are so many talented aboriginal artists out there that we felt compelled to recognize another batch of these talented First Nations and Native artists.
You can see the full list of the 2014 APCMA winners here… But read about our top picks below in this list of 5 MORE First Nations Musical Artist Award Winners to Watch Out For!
Leonard Sumner (Anishinaabe MC from the Little Saskatchewan First Nation) is certainly an artist to watch as the recipient of the APCMA’s Best New Artist award. With his distinct fusion of hip-hop, country and rhythm & blues, Sumner provides a voice often unheard in traditional communities. Though Sumner has performed in nearly every type of venue imaginable, this artist who self-identifies as “straight from the Rez” says his favorite place to perform is on reserves and in First Nation communities where he can talk to young people about suicide prevention.
“The effects of everything that has happened to First Nations—I get to see people that are building from that, and I get to see people that are still affected negatively,” he told CBC’s Manitoba Scene. “Maybe that’s why my music connects ... I’m sharing stuff that’s real.”
As an award-winning pop artist with a real energy to get the crowds moving, it is no surprise that Inez Jasper (Sto:lo, Ojibway and Métis) took home the APCMA’s Best Pop CD for Burn Me Down. A veritable music giant on social media with her hits such as “Dancing on the Run,” Jasper definitely deserves her place on this list.
“I grew up loving ’90s R&B and pop music,” said Jasper. “I was the girl jumping on the bed singing into her hairbrush at the top of my lungs. Everyone would always say, ‘You can always hear Inez singing halfway across the Rez.’ My cousins always knew when I was singing. They were like, ‘Ok Inez, you have been singing that song for three weeks. We are tired of Keith Sweat now because of you.’ "
Though her musical tastes were all over the spectrum at a young age, Jasper says her strongest influences came from R&B divas such as Mariah Carey, Brandi and Whitney Houston.
“I love SWV,” she says. “I always joke that Coko taught me how to sing.”
With a strong R&B influence; Jasper says her traditional roots are also important.
“A lot of people say, ‘Wow, it's so different, what you are doing,” Jasper says. “You are putting Native singing and Native beats into your music.’ But it seems so natural to me.”
Ghost Town Orchestra
The First Nations folk and alternative rock group Ghost Town Orchestra, which cites such musical influences as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, The Darkness, The Black Keys and Kings of Leon, took home this year’s APCMA Best Rock CD for Dead Wait. With the talents of lead singer Logan Staats, guitarist Victor Martisius, Ian Martins on bass and Paul Venditti on drums, keep your eyes peeled and ears open for more of Ghost Town Orchestra.
"I feel proud to bring home this honor to Six Nations and Brantford,” Staats told the Brantford Expositor. “It was an amazing experience to be surrounded by so many talented aboriginal artists. I was thrilled to see the competition was so vibrant. The Canadian music scene is thriving right now."
As an award-winning songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Shy-Anne (Métis), going by just her first name, has found a comfortable niche in the world of country music. As a recipient of an APCMA for Best Country CD, Aboriginal Entertainer of the Year, Single of the Year and Best Album Cover Design, This First Nations artist is the real deal.
According to her website, Shy-Anne holds an Honors Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Education and currently working on her “Masters of Education” Degree. When she is not touring as a solo, band or symphony act, she is a respected school teacher who works with youth in her community through music and also teaches the Ojibwe Language.
Consisting of such well-established Native talents as founder Vince Fontaine, singer Pamela Davis, vocalist Neewa Mason, bassist Atik Mason, keyboardist Gerry Atwell, drummer Steve Broadhurst and additional vocal stars Don Amero and William Prince, Indian City is a symphonic dream in the world of pop and alternative rock. True to form for their talent, Indian City pulled off the Aboriginal Songwriter of the Year award for their submission “Colors.”
Fontaine, as are the others in Indian City, is certainly no stranger to the music industry. Starting the band Eagle and Hawk in 1994, Fontaine has been showered with accolades, including five dozen nominations and more than 30 wins at awards ceremonies across North America. Among the most notable are a Juno Award, a Western Canadian Music Award, nine Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, three Native American Music Awards, six Indian Summer Music Awards and nine Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards.
In 2008 Fontaine was named Aboriginal Entertainer of the Year and also received the Winnipeg Arts Council’s prestigious Making a Mark Award, presented at the Mayor’s Arts Luncheon.