Maisey Rika Wins Best Maori Album


At last week's New Zealand Music Awards, Maisey Rika took home "Best Maori Album" for "Whitiora" - congrats Maisey! - and we were stoked to check out all the nominees in the category.

The category celebrates Aotearoa (New Zealand) artists and music that express and reflect Maori culture. Eligible albums for the category don't have to be in Te Reo, but all three nominated albums this year were, which is rad!

Winner Maisey Rika is a soul/acoustic vocalist who has recorded in both English and Te Reo, and her fellow nominated artists were jazz/funk artist Kirsten Te Rito and blues/ jazz/soul singer Ngatapa Black.

Take in the sweet sounds of Rika, Te Rito and Black here:

VIDEO: Maisey Rika - "Tangaroa Whakamautai"


Maori Soul Singer Songwriter Maisey Rika recently released a video for her song Tangaroa Whakamauti, written and performed in her traditional language.

Tangaroa Whakamauti is a beautiful song that roughly translates into a ballad for the Maori god of the sea, Tangaroa. Sung in her traditional language, this song from the Aotearoa native is a powerful tribute to her culture's history, language, and presence in contemporary music.

Rika's award-winning stage presence and songwriting speaks for itself; this manifestation of a cultural revitalization is awe-inspiring and gorgeous on the eyes. Read the lyrics and the translation, done by Rika herself. Directed by Shae Sterling.


10 Most Influential Indigenous Albums of 2011


It was a good year for music in Indian Country with new releases coming from every corner of Turtle Island and in every genre you can imagine. LPs, EPs, singles, mixtapes, remixes - we've heard most of it here at RPM and while it's difficult to say what the best albums of the year are, we've tallied up the records we think have been the most influential.

These albums made a splash on the scene, presented a new perspective, reached new heights in production and creativity, or attained a new level of work for the artist.

Check out RPM's 10 Most Influential Indigenous Albums of 2011:

Blue King Brown - Blue King Brown (BKB) BKB ripped through Canada with their first Canadian release (self-titled) this past summer. Their fearless approach to global issues and energetic combination of live urban roots music is sure to have taken many Turtle Island fans. With front woman Natalie Pa’apa’a (Samoa) leading the pack with her pint-size ball of fire attitude, their shows get you moving and their album will hopefully inspire more local Indigenous folks to take their messages to the dance floor. One of our favorite tracks is Come and Check Your Head with lyrics "'Cause this battle’s about to get hotter, I feel it in my heart! AND next time you're waiting for something to change, Instead of just sitting and wasting the day, The struggle it breathes now and calls out your name." Yep.

Label: Indica. Get Blue King Brown on iTunes.

Winnipeg's Most - Goodfellaz The trio of Winnipeg's Most definitely made HUGE leaps and bounds this year with their multiple video releases and the literal clean-up of Aboriginal People's Choice Awards.  Their album Goodfellaz took home 6 awards this year and yielded a handful of quality music videos that all garnered huge hits on YouTube. These guys don't seem to be slowing down at all and are continuing to release more music every month.

Label: Heatbag Records/Rezofficial Music. Get Goodfellaz on iTunes.

Terri-Lynn Williams-DavidsonNew Journeys This album in the Haida language aims to start a new journey for Haida music. Through combining contemporary instrumentation with traditional, Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson establishes a connection to Haida culture that some may not find in a more traditional format. Most of the songs are original compositions, the production of which is beautiful, stirring and meditative. Williams-Davidson's voice is soft and strong and even if you don't understand the words, deeply moving in its delivery. Music is surely one of the best methods of using and preserving language, and in New Journeys - which won Williams-Davidson Best Female Artists of 2011 at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards - Williams-Davdison brings the language not only to the present time but also straight to the heart.

Label: Raven Calling Productions. Get New Journeys on CDBaby.

The Local Onlyz Kings Among Clowns Bringing some funk and hip-hop into the world of Indigneous music, The Local Onlyz hit it off this year with their album King's Among Clowns. Starting with a great video for their song Next To You, their album brought a new breath of energy to the table. Mixing the styles of live instrumented hip-hop with frontman Infored's technically savvy rap style, brought them out to Aboriginal Music Week and also onto our most influential albums list for 2011.

Label: Independent. Hear Kings Among Clowns on SoundCloud.

Vince FontaineSongs for Turtle Island Ojibway musician Vince Fontaine is best known as the founder of and guitarist for rock band Eagle & Hawk who have been successfully making music together for 16 years. 2011 was the year that Fontaine, for the first time, went solo. Songs for Turtle Island has collected a list of well-deserved award nominations and wins, including winning Best Instrumental at the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards and Native American Music Awards and Best Songwriter at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, in 2011. It's not hard to hear why the praises are being sung - the 8 songs on Songs for Turtle Island are an eclectic but cohesive fusion of contemporary instrumental genres with traditional Native American music, from atmospheric electronic instrumentation to hand drum. The result is unique, captivating and one of this year's best albums.

Label: Rising Sun Productions. Get Songs for Turtle Island on CDBaby.

 1491 Nation Presents: MC RedCloud Though this is a mixtape, this album made major waves in the Indigenous hip-hop scene. MC RedCloud has been touring and collaborating all over Turtle Island for the last decade, bringing his energetic unmatched rap skills to stages in both Canada and the United States sides of the border. 1491 Nation Presents: MC RedCloud brought us back to a time in hip-hop that was all about the beats and rhymes, that was a great gift to the ears of hip-hop listeners this summer. Filled with comedy skits and solid songs in the classic RedCloud style, this is an album that you should get right now if you don't have it already.

Label: Independent. Get 1491 Nation Presents: MC RedCloud on Bandcamp.

Silver Jackson - It's Glimmering Now Following his release of the experimental hip-hop EP Digital Indigenous under the moniker of Indian Nick in April this year, Nicholas Galanin turned to his more acoustic persona Silver Jackson and released It's Glimmering Now in November. That said, in the past Silver Jackson has been a more bluesy, folky side of Galanin but with It's Glimmering Now his sonic pursuits seem to be coming closer together. It's a welcome contribution of experimental and acoustic vibe on a music scene that can be saturated with hip-hop and country, displaying the best of the diversity in Indigenous music culture today. With each listen, you'll hear something you didn't on your last, which is to say it's a grower and an aural landscape to explore. So get in there and look around.

Label: Homeskillet Records. Get It's Glimmering Now on Bandcamp.

Laura Ortman Someday We'll Be Together This summer Laura Ortman released her second solo album Someday We'll Be Together which features her on vocals, violin, piano, electric guitar, Apache violin (a long hollowed out Agave stalk with both the string and the bow hairs made of horse tail hair), Casio, and tree branches. Her classical training combined with her adventurous heart lead us on a magical, spaced out adventure through New York.  Check out our recent RPM spotlight on her.

Label: Lightning Speak. Get Someday We'll Be Together on Bandcamp.

Beaatz Music Is Me let's include a mention that we included him in our 4 to watch in 2012 We cannot say enough about the introduction of Tobique First Nation's Beaatz. He stepped onto the hip-hop scene this year with an undeniable hip-hop sound that makes you say, "This kid is from WHERE?!?!?". His debut album Music Is Me was released earlier this year and has all the makings to be a classic that he decided to release for FREE download. His skilled production and rap ability will always ensure him a place at the table for the years to come.

Label: Independent. Get  Music is Me via MegaUpload.

Phyllis Sinclair - Dreams of the Washerwoman Winner of Best Folk Acoustic Album at this year's Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, Dreams of the Washerwomanis the third album from swampy Cree singer-songwriter Phyllis Sinclair. With this release, she has honed and deepened her songwriting and performance, the result of which is 10 strong songs, each featuring beautiful melodies and striking imagery. Dedicating the album to single parent families, the true heart of the album is the stories Sinclair shares - drawing from her own experiences of being raised in poverty by a single mother, she speaks to struggle and perseverance with compassion and wisdom. Dreams of the Washerwoman is a benchmark for Sinclair and a work that stands out within the singer-songwriter genre.

Label: Independent. Get Dreams of the Washerwoman on CDBaby.

RPM Podcast #012: "Revitalization"


In Episode 12 of the podcast, RPM looks at the Indigenous language revitalization movement. Half of the world's languages have disappeared in the past 500 years and today another language goes extinct almost every two weeks. Indigenous languages are the ones most at risk - which has inspired Indigenous musicians to take up the struggle to save them.

Our host Ostwelve speaks with three artists who are working on revitalizing their ancestral languages.

Miss Christie Lee of the Musqueam Nation raps in Hun'qumi'num' and shares what her culture means to her and how she sought guidance from her elders on creating music in her language.

Tall Paul, of Point of Contact, raps in Anishnaabemowin.  Tall Paul describes discovering more of his culture through his college language course and using hip-hop to adapt Indigenous languages to new avenues.

Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson, who sings in the language of Haida, hopes listeners can get to a different place, even if they don't understand the words, and she shares how by singing in our Indigenous language we are connecting with our ancestors.

DOWNLOAD: RPM Podcast #012 - "Revitalization" 


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For more on language revitalization, see:

The RPM podcast is produced & engineered by the amazing Paolo Pietropaolo.

Photo illustration created by the talented Joi Arcand.

Artists Can Now Apply in Inuktitut


The Canada Council for the Arts has released a new app in order to make their funding programs more accessbile to Inuktitut-speaking artists.

The app - the first-ever downloadable program in the Inuktitut language - helps users write proposals to the many Canada Council for the Arts (CCA) grant programs.

Apparently, the CCA noticed they were receiving a low number of applications from Inuit artists and recognized the lack of language accessibility as a barrier.

From CBC News' Inuktitut iPhone app to help Inuit artists:

Myna Ishulutaq teaches Inuktitut at the Pirurvik Centre in Iqaluit. She says it could really help artists who are writing in a second language, or who only speak Inuktitut. “This will really help Inuit, to artists who apply, not just needing a translator all the time but now they'll be able to read and understand on their own,” said Ishulutaq.

Mathew Nuqingaq is an artist and he has done some consulting for the council over the past twenty years. He was one of the first to see the app.

“There are so many artists that are here in Nunavut, I think we have the most artists, and we are the least that get the funding,” said Nuqingaq... “It’s great because when the artist gets the funding, it's a living allowance,” he said. “They get to live without having to think about having to sell their pieces for a while and then they get a collection. That way, when they get a collection, they'll get a showing in a gallery,”

The only concern Nuqingaq takes is the Council's lack of an Inuktitut-speaking employee to further help Inuit artists to apply for funding.

Hopefully, the app is the first step in the right direction at the CCA for equal access by Inuktitut speakers.

The app is free and available on iTunes and the Android market. It’s also available in English and French.

TRAILER: "The Young Ancestors"


A new film, The Young Ancestors, explores the journey of young people learning their language from their elders.

Here is the trailer for an incredible film The Young Ancestors. It talks about the important issue of Indigenous language revitalization and the need for us to put our young people in the centre of our language work. It follows the story of a group of Native American teens who are trying to re-learn their traditional tongue. Look out for the upcoming RPM podcast featuring Language Revitalization out November 30th, right here!

You can find out more about this film at their website

DOWNLOAD: Miss Christie Lee - "Experience"


This killer track from hip-hop artist Miss Christie Lee is mostly in her Indigenous Musqueam language. The hook translates to "there are no words that can express how much you mean to me" and speaks to Christie's passion for empowering her people, in particular Aboriginal youth, to be proud of their roots. A member of Vancouver's all female hip-hop First Ladies Crew, Christie is a strong, positive voice in the Indigenous hip-hop scene and her music has taken her around the world, from performing at the Beijing Olympics to opening for K'Naan in Vancouver. She sent us this track to check out and we're stoked to share it with you. DOWNLOAD: Miss Christie Lee - "Experience"

Technology and 10%: Language Revitalization


What started with a tweet and led to an 8-year plan, Dustin Rivers of the Skwxwú7mesh and Kwakwaka'wakw nations is armed to revitalize his Indigenous Squamish language.

In an article for Pacific Rim magazine, RPM's own Joi T. Arcand talks with Dustin Rivers about his modern take on language revitalization. Arcand shares some remarkable statistics - apparently only 5.1 percent of B.C. First Nations people are fluent speakers of their language, making each language nearly extinct if not extinct already. Of Rivers' Squamish language, he estimates there are only 4 fluent speakers left.

There is also this number: 10 percent. That's what it takes to bring a language back to life. If 1 in 10 members of a Nation are fluent, their language can be saved from extinction.

From Language Warrior:

Rivers has a plan to make that happen. "I have an eight-stage strategy that I'm following, developed by American linguist, Joshua Fishman. His strategy helps you identify where your language is on the scale, so you can appropriately accomplish the next step." Rivers says that Skwxwú7mesh Sníchim is still in the early stage: getting an adult generation of speakers who act as language apprentices, and as bridges between elders and the youth. He says, "if we're there and we start creating newspapers in Squamish or writing books in Squamish, they're not going to be entirely useful until there are people who are able to read them." He says that time and resources spent on producing written learning tools could be better used to address the issue of where the language is at now, and getting it to the next level, which is creating an integrated group of active speakers where the language is used habitually or exclusively.

Rivers incorporates a language-learning method called Where Are Your Keys (WAYK) - a method he learned about after posting on Twitter that he wanted to learn his language within a set timeframe. The tweet came across the the radar of the WAYK developers - Portland, Oregon, based Evan Gardner and Willem Larson - who reached out to Rivers that they knew a way.

...Gardner describes WAYK as "an open-source, community-based method designed to accelerate the language-learning process." The game incorporates sign language, special rules, and techniques that help transfer language faster from one person to another. A typical game has players sit around a table where they interact with simple objects, such as rocks, sticks and pens. Players learn by passing questions and answers about the objects back and forth.

Larson and Gardner had been working with First Nation communities in Oregon and Washington for about 10 years when they began to develop a larger web presence...

"We emailed [Rivers] and said we know a way. Any community that actually wants to bring their language back just needs to have someone that says, 'Okay, I'll do it'."

Dustin Rivers has become to go-to person for learning the Squamish language. He has organized weekly language nights, immersion gatherings, a podcast and, coining the term for himself "language revitalization activist". You could say he isn't just talking the talk, but talking is the aim of his actions.

Read the whole story at

Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson Connects Through Haida Language


Haida musician, and Aboriginal-environmental lawyer, Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson talks with APTN about choosing to record songs in the Haida language.

Terri-Lynn's new album New Journeys features traditional Haida music with arrangements by classical composer Bruce Ruddell.

"I felt it was important to sing in the Haida language. There are insights you can gain only through the Haida language so there are concepts I wanted to share with a broader audience that come out through these songs... that probably couldn't reach people if they were in the English language" Terri-Lynn shared with APTN.

New Journeys is up for "Best Folk Acoustic" album at this year's APCMAs - stream Today We Go On Our Own Strength here, and watch the full story APTN interview at Music Making Haida Language Universal.

Music, Film and the Revitalization of Indigenous Languages


Two new projects have come across the RPM radar that are part of the continuing, and growing, revitalization of Indigenous languages movement.

The Song Peoples Sessions is the first collaboration of its kind in Australia, bringing contemporary Indigenous musicians to learn traditional language and record music with song people from their own families.

The Age reports in New chapter for ancient songbook:

For Shellie Morris, a circle is now unbroken. Morris's grandmother was a child of the stolen generations and Morris was adopted by a white family in Sydney. She learnt opera singing before she began recording folk and rock ballads. Now she has recorded an album in the language of her grandmother backed by the traditional singing of Borroloola women. Morris says the project ''will affect my songwriting for the rest of my life.''


Morris spent three weeks learning Yanyuwa pronunciation and studying the traditional songs. Then with guidance from the song women, she wrote ballads that celebrate Yanyuwa stories, melodies and rhythms. Traditional singers overlay rhythms to produce hypnotic patterns not unlike those in Aboriginal painting

The result is a beautiful, layered and textured song. Listen to Shellie Morris'  Li-Anthawirriyarra:

Song People Sessions - Li-Anthawirriyarra by Song People Sessions

In the last 100 years, 600 Indigenous languages have been lost - a heartbreaking statistic from indpendant filmmaker Brian McDermott who is developing the documentary film Lost Words. Lost Words follows a group of Indigenous people working to save their endangered languages. It also shares the story of the government's push to eradicate Indigenous language and the related traumas suffered, and still affecting, Indigenous people today.

"If you don't have a language, then who are you?" asks Conrad Fisher in the Lost Words trailer.

Lost Words Trailer from Brian McDermott on Vimeo.

Brian is currently raising funds on Kickstarter to complete the film. Contribute to the Lost Words campaign here.


Indigenous Language Revitalization Movement


There are some amazing events taking place in revitalizing our Indigenous languages. Hip-hop, Twitter and text messaging are playing an integral part in this movement.

We recently wrote about Tall Paul and his bilingual  track “Prayers in a Song”, which blends English and Anishnaabemowin.

IndigenousTweet pointed us to the Bellingham Herald's article Hip-hop, texting may help save world's languages. Youth are key stakeholders in whether a language is used and passed down, or rejected, but in Mexico, teenagers have been texting in Huave, a language spoken by only 15,000 people in the Tehuantepec region, along the Pacific.

Youth in other areas around the globe are using their language similarly.

To the North, Digital Indigenous Democracy is a remarkable endeavour that will bring interactive digital media to eight remote Baffin Island Inuit communites - communities whose 4,000 year-old oral language will become extinct without digital media to carry it forward into the next generation.

Cultural Survival recently organized the National Native Languages Revitalization Summit in Washington D.C with the goal of "engaging every one of the 62 members of the House and Senate appropriations committees with Native language revitalization success stories, along with justifications for additional federal support."

Rosebud Sioux and South Dakota-based programmer Biagio Arobba created the user-generated content site LiveAndTell, crowdsourcing audio and audio-tagged images. The content so far is largely from the Lakota language but the intention encompasses all Indigenous languages. In an interview with Paul Glader the main thing in language preservation, Arobba says, "is just lowering the barriers and the costs for everybody."

With that in mind, low-tech can also have an impact. InsideVancouver brought our attention to a great new print dictionary - Squamish For Dummies: Cool New Squamish-English Dictionary.

The Squamish language, like many of B.C.’s Aboriginal languages, suffered a near fatal hit in the last century as a result of the residential school system.  For decades, young Squamish students were forcibly sent away to residential schools, where they were strictly forbidden from speaking their own language.  Even today, many elders are reluctant to speak the traditional language owing to this legacy of abuse.

This is, as we know, a heartbreaking truth for many of our languages and communities across Turtle Island. But these local and global projects, along with the actions of youth, are an inspiring, growing movement.

Here's a dose of that inspiration from Dustin Rivers' project Word of the Day: Lhx̱áy̓tstn by SquamishLanguage

Tall Paul: Interview with Anishinaabe Rapper


Anishinaabe rapper Tall Paul came across the RPM Radar last week via a Colorlines post on Midwest Rappers Showing Love for Their Indigenous Ojibwe Language. After getting put on to Point of Contact, an Indigenous hip-hop group based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota and their video, “Modern Day Warriors”, we were blown away by Tall Paul's solo performance of his bilingual  track "Prayers in a Song", which deftly blends English and Anishnaabemowin.

Tall Paul is from Leech Lake, Minnesota.

And this week, we found Rick Harp's great interview with Tall Paul over at MediaIndigenaAnishinabe rapper helps take Ojibwe language into new territory

We agree that the language of hip-hop can help inspire our people to revitalize our own Indigenous languages for the generations to come—and it's great to see it in action.

Have a listen to the full interview:

Interview: MC Tall Paul, "Prayers in a Song" by UrbanNation