Exquisite Ghost Takes Indigenous Beat-Making to New Heights


Winnipeg-based electronic producer, Exquisite Ghost, shares insights into his creative process and the burgeoning Indigenous beat-making scene.

Jordan Thomas, aka Exquisite Ghost, is something of an anomaly in the contemporary Indigenous music community.

Although headlining acts like A Tribe Called Red have claimed a centre stage spotlight at the intersection of electronic dance music and powwow-infused rhythms, more cerebral and esoteric beat excursions by Indigenous producers have received less critical acclaim and attention.

But that's not for a lack of innovation and creative expression.

If anything, Exquisite Ghost's productions offer a more nuanced and exploratory set of aesthetics than many dancefloor-focused DJs can provide. Echoes of J Dilla, Flying Lotus, and Aphex Twin can be heard in his production style, but Thomas is crafting his own uniquely melodic and ethereal take on contemporary beat-making. Through an evolving set of sonic experiments, Exquisite Ghost brings a deft hand and hip-hop-inspired touch to his head-nodding and hypnotic compositions.

Following the 2013 release of his debut album, Shrines, on Salient Sounds, Thomas has been steadily dropping gems on his SoundCloud. Although, by ATCR standards, he's still flying under the radar, Thomas is definitely a producer to watch—one who's changing the game in the process.

We caught up with him to talk music, creative inspiration, collaboration, and upcoming album plans. Stream and download new tracks from Exquisite Ghost below.

Thanks for talking with us. Please introduce yourself and tell us what nation you're from.

I am Jordan Thomas, Exquisite Ghost, from Peguis First Nation, and thank you too.

Where'd you grow up? What's your connection to your home community?

I was raised in Winnipeg, with a large branch of my grandparents and family living in Peguis, which I have visited at times since I was young. My grandparents were taken through residential schools and, as I grew up, they told stories of how they made their way to rise above. My immediate family is working with many First Nations in design and media, building projects.

How did you get started making music?

I think watching my dad firsthand getting his architecture degrees, as I was growing up, the long path to developing forms and conceptions until they are concrete, and to have musical experiences and inner questions about what is salient when these things have to come together—they're are all sort of the beginning of my path to music. I began playing guitar, which was my dad's, and we had a recording studio when I was younger, which was my uncle's. They all played music, my grandfathers on both sides, virtually everyone, my mother too, so it was definitely something that was waiting to happen.

What inspires you to create?

These days after all the hundreds of jams and tracks and ideas and days spent with music, I will be inspired by a feeling or memory, or musician, movie, show, a friend in conversation, a sound of a train outside...it's this idea about how, these days, there's a fluidity of information that we're faced with, organizing these messages constantly, so it's always interesting to arrange music in a very open sort of way. The effects of fusion in music, in a global sense, are becoming very apparent, so a musical conversation between timeless Indigenous cultures is being recognized and engaged with in excitement, fun and playfulness. Not without due respect for the places of origin—in time, in people and places—but it is this way that we learn and discover more about ourselves.

A lot of your music has an otherworldly quality to it. What do you think of Indigenous Futurism? Do you feel like your work fits in that vision?

The idea of Indigenous futurisms feels exciting. As some descriptions mix and blend over time, proto-neo-post-meta-style, fusion, world music mixing with jazz, rock, pop, dub, bass—my country or yours, this land or that land—the qualities of my own vision of the music are intrinsic to a combination of these. That might include connections to other things: like sci-fi, literature, or design in general. A thread I followed through my life, was when my dad was thinking about what Indigenous architecture ought to feel like, or how to describe it, and to demonstrate the connection between the two words.

So the feel of a lot of my work has been created from inversions of mixtures of textures and places I listened to music from— worldwide, from any time, past or present, that I felt was interesting, and from trying to get deep into finding out what it's affecting by listening and playing. It has a futuristic feel for sure. Sometimes I like to imagine what music in clubs or spaceships, or as you walk down the street far into the unrecognizable future, might sound like, and why.

Your first album, Shrines, dropped in 2013. Since then you've been posting some dope new tracks on your SoundCloud. Can we expect a new album soon?

Since Shrines, I have had to deal with a time consuming, unexpected house fire that took up a lot of space and showed me a lot of things. Six months without internet for one. Life has changed. Producing music now, in this state after getting engaged with it fully, finally feels great. And there are plans and themes for an album of Exquisite Ghost music that I've been fine tuning for the past year. I am working on sound and music for a game as well, that is underway, involving Space and Canoes. It's an Indigenous Futurist piece, and I'm learning tons about producing these projects, culturally and creatively.

Who are you collaborating with on your new stuff? Is there an Indigenous beat-making scene emerging that we can keep an eye for?

I am always seeking people to talk with about music, or just about ideas in general. The idea of sampling, contextualizing, is integral to growth, and welcomes surprises, and the music I'm working on now is shaped to be remixed, or to inspire anyone interested in it to reach out and chat. I want to make music for people. That's what truly inspires me. There is always music around to find: the Indigenous Futurisms Mixtape on RPM was incredible, wonderful music, along with the artists listed on the site, the shows of Aboriginal Music Week, the musicians I played to, all have really brought something special to my own music. I'm enjoying exploring.

Listen to new tracks from Exquisite Ghost 

Watch Exquisite Ghost, "Evening"


Exquisite Ghost's Shrines is available in digital format and on limited edition vinyl from Salient Sounds.

Raven Chacon, Laura Ortman, and the Discotays Perform at One Flaming Arrow Festival


The One Flaming Arrow Festival of Indigenous art, music, and performance blazes on.

Kicking off last week in Portland, Oregon, the inaugural One Flaming Arrow Festival is bringing an incredible array of contemporary Indigenous art, music, readings, film screenings, panels, performances, and concerts to the Indigenous lands of the Chinook/Multnomah peoples.

The brainchild of Demian DinéYazhi, Kaila Farrell-Smith (both of R.I.S.E.), and Carlee Smith, One Flaming Arrow launched a successful crowdfunding campaign this winter to bring together radical Indigenous voices from across Native america for a 12-day celebration of contemporary Indigenous arts.

The festival features a stellar lineup that includes:

  • Bat Vomit
  • Natalie Ball
  • Dylan Miner
  • Melanie Fey
  • Sky Hopinka
  • Shilo George
  • Jeff Ferguson
  • Laura Ortman
  • The Discotays
  • Brittany Britton
  • Raven Chacon
  • Katrina Benally
  • Amanda Ranth
  • Miranda Crystal
  • Almas Fronterizas
  • "Drunktown's Finest"
  • Burial Ground Sound
  • Grace Rosario Perkins w/Amberlee Cotchay
  • Melissa Bennett w/Elizabeth LaPensée & Allie Vasquez

In between the low-rider bike workshops, storytelling sessions, art installations, poetry performances, and an Indigenous Futurisms film night curated by Grace Dillon, the festival is also showcasing some of the finest in Indigenous music culture.

On Tuesday, June 9th, Diné experimental/noise musician Raven Chacon (of Postcommodity), White Mountain Apache violinist Laura Ortman, and the Diné electro-queerpostpunk duo Discotays will throw down at the Holocene. Event info is below.

The One Flaming Arrow Festival continues through June 14th. Check the festival program for the full schedule of events.

One Flaming Arrow offers stark and powerful evidence of the Indigenous artists at the forefront of the contemporary creative arts. May this year be the first of many to come.

Listen to an OPB radio interview on the One Flaming Arrow Festival


JUNE 9th: Laura Ortman & Raven Chacon Performance and the Discotays at the Holocene!

9:30pm-11:30pm Holocene: 1001 SE Morrison, Portland 97214 Join us on June 9th, 2015 at the Holocene in Portland, Oregon for Raven Chacon & Laura Ortman + Discotays. We have the honor of showcasing two award-winning multi-instrumentalists, Indigenous composers Raven Chacon & Laura Ortman along with the musical styling of Discotrays.

Tickets available here

DISCOTAYS (Diné) are a music duo from Navajo Nation, comprised of artists Hansen Ashley & Brad Charles. Their music has been adored by the likes of Kathleen Hanna and can be described as post-punk electro & queerpostpunk / queerpostsurf / queernowave.

Laura Ortman (White Mountain Apache) has performed with Stars Like Fleas, the Dust Dive & Silver Summit, & composes music for art installations & films in the form of the Dust Dive Flash. She plays violin, Apache violin, piano, electric guitar, musical saw & samplers. Ortman has created music for films by Martha Colburn & Indigenous filmmakers Blackhorse Lowe, Alan Michelson, & Raquel Chapa, among others.

Raven Chacon (Diné/Chicano) is a chamber music composer & experimental noise artist. Chacon is a member of the Indigenous art collective, Postcommodity, with whom he has developed multi-media installations that have been exhibited internationally. Both his solo work & his work with Postcommodity has been presented at the Sydney Bienale, Kennedy Center, Adelaide International, Vancouver Art Gallery, Musée d’ art Contemporain de Montréal, The San Francisco Electronic Music Festival, Chaco Canyon, & Performance Today. Tickets are $8 in advance & $10 at the door. 21 and over.

Watch Raven Chacon, Live at End Tymes in New York City

Music & Idle No More: RPM on CBC's The Current


On today's edition of The Current, three members of the RPM crew spoke with guest host Duncan McCue about music and the Idle No More revolution.

"Does every revolution have a soundtrack?". We know it does—and it was an honour to discuss RPM, revolution, music along with the recent release of our Songs for Life compilations: Volume 1 and Volume 2.

LISTEN: Stream the panel discussion on CBC here.

Idle No More: Does Every Revolution have a Soundtrack? - January 25, 2013

The ideas of the Idle No More protests may nor may not catch on, but some of the music it's inspired is already part of a new aboriginal songbook. With Idle No More protesters calling for a Global Day of Action on Monday to mark the return of the House of Commons, we chat with three Indigenous artists behind the Idle No More soundtrack.

Source: CBC.ca

The Round Dance Revolution: Idle No More


Our guest contributor this week is Ojibway/Métis comedian—turned Idle No More organizer and activist—Ryan McMahon. He reflects on what it is about the rising #IdleNoMore movement that has captured our collective imagination, attention and revolutionary spirit. And how it's taken us from online discussion to a massive mobilization that is literally taking over hundreds of shopping malls, town squares and community centres across Turtle Island—and now the world.

This is the story of how we are reuniting our people through our songs, dances and cultures.

The Round Dance Revolution has arrived.

This was supposed to have been written days ago. When I was asked by RPM to do a guest post I immediately said, “Yes, I’ll write a guest post: Indigenous... music...culture...#IdleNoMore... Sounds great!" And I hung up the phone.

Then I attended the first Idle No More action in Winnipeg and when I got home that night I started writing. Sorta. It was -38 with the windchill that day - so - I think I drank tea for hours and sat under blankets, but, I’m trying to sound responsible here.


I wrote for a few hours that night. I wrote. And wrote. I heard typewriter keys in mind. Much like Hunter S. Thompson, I wrote. Sorta. Like Hunter S. Thompson. Well, minus the whiskey, the smokes and the drugs, so, not like Hunter S. Thompson at all, but, dammit, I wrote.

Now, full disclosure - at best, I’m a below average writer. My words, brain and fingers don’t connect. I can’t articulate myself very well in this medium (I’m writing two books by the way, I bet the publishers are stoked I’m saying this publicly) and I struggled to find a clear sense of what I was feeling.

But I knew I was feeling something. We all were. We all are.

The Idle No More Movement, the politics and the struggle, were providing me with mind-boggling confusion, anger, sadness and happiness. The fact that mainstream media were ignoring the movement as a whole, the fact that one of our strongest leaders is currently on a hunger strike and the fact that I felt like we were Tweeting and Facebooking into a vacuum...everything exasperated my frustration. I struggled to find something that hadn’t been covered yet, when the incredible Métis blogger Chelsea Vowel, my Anishinaabe brother Wab Kinew, and many other journalists and independent media were providing great coverage. So I struggled.

And struggled. No angle. Nothing interesting to say. Nothing informative to add.

Then, two days ago I decided that my piece was going to focus on 'Revolution Music'. I’d call on our Indigenous musicians and artists to find their inspiration in the movement to start building our soundtrack.

We have so much talent in our communities—some of the most exciting musicians on the planet are Indigenous, and I was excited about 'calling them to action'. I talked to many of my musician friends who are working on music right now and, although some are working on new music or have released new tracks recently—there wasn’t much of a story. It seemed like a lazy idea. Maybe it was too obvious. Too simple.

But then it happened.

The Round Dance Flash Mob Explosion

A Round Dance Flash Mob was planned and executed in Regina, SK. The next night a Round Dance broke out inside West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton (North America’s largest mall) during the busy Christmas shopping season.

Then round dances started appearing everywhere: Saskatoon, Ottawa, North Bay, Regina, Prince Albert...the list goes on and on. There are currently round dance actions, traditional song and game flash mobs, and other peaceful music-based actions planned across Turtle Island.

Just look at how many #rounddance posts there are on Twitter.

On Wednesday, we saw YouTube video surface of a group of native brothers and sisters from Minnesota singing the “AIM Song” in the Canadian Consulate office in Minneapolis. Incredible.

The round dance revolution.

It’s happening. Right?

The music revolution is happening. And thank God (if there is a God...c’mon, you know my deal with all that) it doesn’t look like Woodstock. Instead, it’s a beautiful, peaceful and inclusive action. We are being led by our drums.

It’s perfect. It’s accessible. It’s transportable. It’s cheap (hey, we’re on budgets, ya know).

And it's a whole new form of direct action, protest and resistance. As Metro News Saskatoon reported:

With flash mob round dances already occurring in Regina and Edmonton some...say the flash mob has become one of the more effective forms of protest....compared to traditional methods of protest, the flash mob is a more engaging and welcoming way to spread a message.

Why This Matters

We are the Indigenous Peoples of this land. We have held unique worldviews and cultural and spiritual practices for thousands of years. So many of these practices included drums.

As kids, we were told that the drum beat represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth. We were told our songs come from Mother Earth. We were told that our communities are only as strong as the sound of our drums.

Then “they” came. And many of our drums went silent. Completely silent. Our songs were banned. Torn from our lives. Forcefully. Violently. But, although they silent for a time, our old people kept their bundles. Some hid them. Some buried them.

Then, slowly, the sound of our drums re-emerged. They started to spread through our communities again. They signalled hope. They signalled our return.

Our drums were being used. And we began to gather again. We danced again. And our communities are slowly regaining their strength.

It's perfect. It makes perfect sense. A Round Dance Revolution. It has reinvigorated and re-inspired our People. It has lifted the spirits of thousands. The act of the “flash mob” can be called “Political/Guerilla Theatre” but it’s not politics in and of itself. It’s a glimpse into who we are. It is perfect.


One Heartbeat: December 21, 2012

At 12:00pm on Friday, December 21st, thousands will gather on Parliament Hill to drum sing and dance—while thousands more will gather in communities across Turtle Island for round dances, songs and prayers in support of all our relations.

IdleNoMore: One Heartbeat Across Turtle Island

Idle No More has called on all Nations to drum and sing across Turtle Island on December 21, 2012 at 12:00 p.m. Central Standard time, for a global synchronized Spiritual Awakening.

We want to honor and recognize the Drum as it represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth and the heartbeat of our people.

Indigenous peoples call on all people and nations to join us in solidarity in “One Heartbeat” through the Drum as we honor the ways of our Ancestors.

We have much to do to sustain this movement. We have long term and short term planning to get underway. BUT. If we need to #SoundtracktheStruggle: it's already here. Our songs remind us that we’re fighting for the land, our languages, our women, our children and for our lives.

Round Dance Flash Mobs That Have Happened To Date:

Regina, SK Edmonton, AB Ottawa, ON Regina, SK North Bay, ON Saskatoon, SK

Round Dance Flash Mobs Scheduled To Happen This Coming Week:

Sault St. Marie, ON Green Bay, WI Rapid City, SD Kamloops, BC Prince Albert, SK Duluth, MN Fort McMurray, AB Akwesasne Mohawk Territory North Battleford, SK Winnipeg, MB Victoria, BC Vancouver, BC Kenora, ON Moncton, NB Grand Prairie, AB Sarnia, ON Tempe, AZ Hamilton, ON Brandon, MB Burnaby, BC Richmond, BC Denendeh, NWT Halifax, NS Phoenix, AZ Seattle, WA Havre, MT 12/22 Billings, MT 12/22 Missoula, MT 12/23

Now the only question is: where will you be?


Ryan McMahon is an Ojibwe/Métis comedian, actor and writer hailing from Couchiching First Nation. He runs the weekly comedy and current Indigenous events podcast, RedManLaughing.com, and his comedy can be found at RyanMcMahonComedy.com

Ryan McMahon

Ryan McMahon is one of the most dynamic Aboriginal/Native American Comedians working in Canada and the United States today. He’s also a graduate of the prestigious Second City Conservatory (Toronto). His show is a loose, fast paced, silly but always honest look at society from the perspective of a “Native dude.” His breakout performances on “Welcome To Turtle Island Too – A Celebration of Aboriginal Comedy” (CBC TV/Radio, Corkscrew Media, 2010), and the “Hystereotypes” (CBC TV, Frantic Films, 2011) Gala television taping at the CBC Winnipeg Comedy Festival in 2011 led to his own one hour standup comedy special “Ryan McMahon – UnReserved” (CBC TV/Radio, Corkscrew Media, taped in June 2012). McMahon tours independently, selling out venues large & small, and his live show combines standup, improv, sketch comedy and weaves stories and characters into an original style of comedy he calls – INDIAN VAUDEVILLE.

After Indigenous Afterdark: RPM's One Year

Secret headliners, multi-disciplinary traditional contemporary media arts mashups, Native models, directors, producers, actors comedians, and some serious bass music; VIMAF, Skookum Sound System and RPM's one year celebration boasted all of this and more. Check out the recap.

Indigenous Afterdark: Around the Sun turned out to be an excellent celebration of Indigenous media arts and music culture on the West Coast. Starting off the evening was the RPM Indigenous Music Video Program, hosted by RPM's own Ostwelve, which showcased some of the year's latest releases from artists like Joey Stylez to Ill Citizens, Hellnback to World Hood. Peep the playlist below.

What ensued after the music video program can be described as an eccentric evening of energizing entertainment. Beginning with West Coast homies Mob Bounce who laid down a warm welcome to the audience in the form of a tight hip-hop set, the lineup rolled on to favorites Skookum Sound System, blending new school and golden styles, and ended with DJ Krisp up on the decks with the boys from A Tribe Called Red being tagged out by DJ Annashay to cap it all off.

DJ Krisp and Shub from ATCR got into it a bit on stage, wowing the crowd with a friendly battle, and Amphibian 14 aka Bracken Hanuse Corlett was stunning the audience with the completely immersive visual experience both inside the venue on on the walls facing into the street. De Nort, the ITWE Collective's interactive new media installation, lent another layer to the evening, with guests wearing the headphones provided at the touch screen to leave the party for a brief moment to be taken to God's Lake Narrows. Numerous artists, producers, directors and various other forms of Native (and non-Native) talent in the house made the evening one to remember. Until next year. Boom.


imagineNATIVE 2012: Indigenous Film, Music and Media Arts Take Centre Stage


Since its inception in 1998, Toronto’s imagineNATIVE Film & Media Arts Festival has grown to be the largest festival of Indigenous film and media arts in the world. The annual celebration was held October 17-21, 2012. Melody McKiver was the grateful recipient of a delegate pass for Indigenous musicians sponsored by Slaight Music. Here’s her exclusive festival recap for RPM.

DAY ONE: Wednesday October 17th

I last attended the festival when I lived in Toronto in 2009. Returning home to see that most imagineNATIVE screenings and workshops are now held in the TIFF Lightbox (Toronto International Film Festival) is a welcome development, and a testament to the major impact this festival has made on the international film, media, and Indigenous arts communities.


The sole film screening held off-site was Wednesday’s opening gala and world premiere of The People of the Kattawapiskak River. Acclaimed Indigenous filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, along with many community members from Attawapiskat First Nation including Chief Theresa Spence, were present, and received standing ovations following the film. Preceding the main feature was Christmas at Moose Factory, Alanis Obomsawin’s 1971 debut film. Despite the 41-year gap between the two films, both share a gentle portrayal of the realities of life in remote Northeastern Ontario and a focus on Omushkego (Swampy Cree) youth. Obomsawin was on the ground in Attawapiskat as news of the community’s state of emergency went viral in late-2011. As mainstream media coverage quickly devolved into factually inaccurate stereotypical reporting, Obomsawin masterfully took vitriolic commentary from Sun Media conservative ideologue Ezra Levant, and presented community members’ responses to his unfounded accusations.

The film began with the community at the peak of the housing crisis, then showed community members celebrating newly-built housing six months later, and concluded with the court case that absolved Attawapiskat First Nation of any financial misdoings—and illustrating the callousness of the federal government’s response to the crisis.


Following the film, imagineNATIVE provided buses to an after-party that offered a happy reunion for many members of the Indigenous arts community. RPM and festival favourite, DJ Bear Witness (of A Tribe Called Red), spun a wide range of reggaeton, Latin, reggae, hip-hop, and his own powwowstep. At 80 years young, Alanis Obomsawin showed off her spirit and vitality by owning the dance floor late into the night.

The party was also an appropriate send-off for DJ Bear Witness, who was set to meet his ATCR brothers at the Toronto airport less than 12 hours later to fly out to perform at the WOMEX Festival in Thessalakoni, Greece.

DAY TWO: Thursday, October 18th


I began my day at the Music in Film & TV: A Guide for Filmmakers and Musicians industry panel, where a diverse and accomplished roster of panelists were invited: Brent Bain of FACTOR; Elizabeth Klinck of E Klinck Research; Paul Stillo of SOCAN; Jeremy von Hollen of Instinct Entertainment, and RPM favourite cellist/composer, Cris Derksen. The audience was filled with film, music, and dance professionals, culminating in a lively question period. For my own soundtrack work, the workshop was more than worthwhile, answering some long outstanding questions I’ve had regarding the nuances of licensing new recordings of existing songs.


With a slight overlap between the end of the industry panel and the beginning of the Unsettling Sex screenings assembled by Chickasaw artist and curator John G. Hampton, I snuck into the movie theater. Although I missed the screening of Dance to Miss Chief by Cree Two-Spirited iconoclast Kent Monkman, I recently saw the piece in a gallery and can testify that his mash-up of disco and powwow music is well worth a listen for powwowstep fans.

Dear Diary and Target Girls by Cree/Ojibway/Roma/Jewish filmmaker and video artist Ariel Smith lacked dialogue, but paired score and sound design by Ottawa band Crush Buildings with vivid black and white imagery. ‘Unsettling’ was an apt description for Target Girls especially: the cinematography was reminiscent of German expressionism, while the soundtrack was reminiscent of 1950’s bubblegum American pop with decidedly un-bubblegum lyrics.

Also featured in Unsettling Sex was Mars-Womb-Man and I am the art scene starring Woman Polanski by Cree/Métis artist James Diamond and About Town by Métis filmmaker, writer, and artist Marnie Parrell. The screenings were shorter than usual in order to give curator John G. Hampton time to read his paper on the series. His written work draws heavily on recent developments in Queer Indigenous studies, while also emphasizing that the films screened should not be essentialized to any single descriptor of queer, Indigenous, sexuality, or feminism.


When not at the TIFF Lightbox, many imagineNATIVE attendees could be found nearby at the 401 Richmond artist complex, which houses a number of small galleries, while others found their way to exhibitions and artist talks including: Concealed Geographies: New Media Exhibition featuring the works of KC Adams, Jason Baerg, Merritt Johnson, Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Justine McGrath and Nigit’stil Norbert, De Nort: New Media Exhibition by the ITWÉ Collective of Kevin Lee Burton, Caroline Monnet, and Sébastien Aubin, and Wbomsawinno: Les estampes de/ The Prints of Alanis Obomsawin.


I made my way to RESONATE - Indigenous Youth Showcase, where a variety of print media and video art was on display by youth artists Nishka Turner, Leslie McCue (Ojibway), Asivak Koostachin (Cree), Cecily Jacko (Ojibway), Kyle Burton, Jared Robilliard (Dene), Damien Bouchard, Cheyenne Scott (Coast Salish), Nigel Irwin-Brochmann, Emily Jones, Alice Thompson and Alana Mcleod. A reception complete with frybread followed that emphasized the tight-knit nature of the community and everyone from newborns to kookums were in attendance.


That evening, I made the difficult choice to break from imagineNATIVE to catch the wrap party of the 5th annual Indigenous Writers’ Gathering and launch of MUSKRAT Magazine, where I caught up with Cree cellist Cris Derksen, who wowed the crowd with recent material not heard on her album or 8th Fire soundtrack, along with some older favourites. An all-star lineup of Indigenous writers, including Lee Maracle, Richard Wagamese, and Marilyn Dumont read from their work. Daniel Heath Justice’s (Cherokee) new poem, which dealt with lies told about Indigenous people, was a personal stand-out, as its unflinching honesty and emotional intensity were reminiscent of Ryan Redcorn’s acclaimed poem Bad Indians. And, of course, event hosts Sid Bobb and Wab Kinew kept the crowd entertained throughout the night.

DAY THREE: Friday, October 19th


On Friday I caught two documentaries that were part of an International Spotlight on the Mapuche Nation I. Each year at imagineNATIVE an Indigenous nation from around the globe is featured, and this year’s invited guests were representatives of the Mapuche Nation from what is also known as Chile. Indigenous resistance to colonialism, capitalism, dispossession of land, and loss of language were recurring themes in the two documentaries screened, En El Nombre del Progresso (In the Name of Progress), and Wallmapu - but also a profound resilience and fierce pride in their culture and nation. I would revisit these themes later in the evening, when I performed as part of the afterparty for the Mapuche delegation.


Immediately after the International Spotlight screening I saw the Turning Points: Shorts Program I. Showcasing a wide variety of creative projects, shorts programs are my favourite parts of film festival programming, but they often force you to make difficult viewing choices. Plus, I knew I would have to run to soundcheck midway through the program. But the opening film, Throat Song, directed by Miranda de Pencier, was a standout. Set in Iqaluit, the 18-minute film follows a young Inuk woman as she seeks an escape from an abusive relationship. The acting and the technical production were superb and throat singing, as the title suggests, played a major part in the film’s soundtrack and sound design. This incredible form of singing propelled the action through dreamy sequences of running and hunting across the tundra that owed much to Zacharias Kunnuk’s groundbreaking work in Antanajuarat: The Fast Runner.


As I ran out early to set up my drums for soundcheck at The Central, I was honoured to participate in the celebration of the Mapuche Nation and perform under their flag. The evening began with a selection of hip-hop and heavy metal music videos curated by director Danko Mariman, whose En El Nombre del Progress (In the Name of Progress) screened earlier in the day. The feature of the screenings was the 2008 film Cortometraje “Che Üñum, Genta Pájaro”, a 22 minute short by Mapuche video artist Francisco Huichaqueo (huichaqueo.cl). The dreamy film opened with a quote which, in English translation, read “When somebody has to move, he has to start all over again and open his eyes and look another way”. Movement was an ongoing theme, with a number of the performers, wearing helmets that suggest the mandibles of ants, engaging in near-impossible displays of parkour throughout the urban landscape of Santiago, Chile. The third movement was particularly mesmerizing, with the introduction of the song Anarky Plastic by Mario Z propelling the action forward and building the sound design from the first two movements to incorporate traditional Mapuche horns. The shift to electronic music in the final movement suggests that this contemporary mix of electronic and Indigenous sonic aesthetics is truly an emerging global sound (as we explored in RPM’s Electric Pow Wow podcast - which included artists Cris Derksen and Bear Witness, who also performed during this year’s imagineNATIVE).


Following the film screenings, live music took the stage. Toronto-based Mapuche MC La Bomba opened things up with her reggae-influenced band, Amazonica Sound Force. All of the band’s members are veterans of the hip-hop en espanol and reggae communities, and performed a tightly polished set. ASF were a tough act to follow, but my band Red Slam Collective took the stage. Red Slam represents a diverse number of Indigenous nations from across Northeastern Turtle Island and our brand of live hip-hop draws from a diverse set of influences including reggae, hand drum songs, spoken word, and funk. It was a true pleasure to play in front of such an inspiring Indigenous audience.

DAY FOUR: Saturday, October 20th


On Saturday the International Spotlight on the Mapuche Nation continued with more documentaries. First up was the North American premiere of Francisco Huichaqueo’s 2012 film Kalül (Reuniôn de Cuerpo / Reunion of the Body) which brought his dreamy cinematographic style, as seen in the previous night’s Cortometraje “Che Üñum, Genta Pájaro”, to document a Mapuche performance art intervention in a shopping mall in Santiago. This was followed by the international premiere of Diez Veces Venceremos (We Shall Overcome Ten Times) by director Cristian Jure. Diez follows the political exile Pascual Pichún, as he attempts to return from his journalism studies in Argentina to his Mapuche homelands in occupied Chile. The title of the film is drawn from a protest song often sung by Pascual and his supporters. Protest songs are an integral part of the narrative of the film, sung by Pascual in exile in Argentina, and by his supporters in his home community.


The Beat is a hotly anticipated part of imagineNATIVE that shifts the festival’s focus from film to music for a Saturday night celebration. Demonstrating the strong connection between film and music, each year The Beat opens with a collection of the past year’s best Indigenous music videos.

This year’s line-up represented Indigenous nations from around the globe, including: This Is My Time Everyday directed by Michelle Latimer, Leivänmuruseni (Breadcrumbs) directed by Oskari Sipola, Ghost House directed by Zoe Hopkins, Mr. Milkman directed by Laura Milliken, Dirty Games directed by James Kinistino, My Blood My People directed by Martin Leroy Adams, and Waardeur directed by Eugene Hendriks. I was proud to contribute drum tracks to this year’s Best Music Video, Sides directed by Mosha Folger, an Ottawa-based Inuk writer, performer, playwright, and member of the Counterfeit Nobles.

Nick Sherman (Ojibway) opened up the evening’s live music component with a commanding solo set. The Sioux Lookout-based singer-songwriter performed seated on his suitcase, which doubled as a bass drum. For the final portion of Nick’s set, he invited up the visual artist and musician Arthur Renwick (Haisla). The two men had only recently began playing together at the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals a few weeks ago, but impart a familiarity that I hope will lead to many future collaborations.

George Leach (Sta’atl’imx) was the evening’s headliner, performing a mix of old favourites and new tracks from his eagerly anticipated new release, Surrender. Audiences at The Beat got a chance to purchase copies of the new album prior to the official release, and I can confirm that it sounds as great as his live set. George Leach and his band pumped up the mood in the room, switching gears from the quiet reverence of Nick Sherman’s set to a full-on Saturday night rock’n’roll party.

They played a high-energy set, proving that nobody in Indian Country rocks a double-necked Gibson SG quite like George Leach.

DAY FIVE: Sunday, October 21st


On Sunday, I made my way to the closing night gala screening of The Lesser Blessed directed by Anita Doron and based on the Richard Van Camp (Dogrib) novel of the same name. Shot in Sudbury but based in the Northwest Territories, the film was gorgeously rendered and scored. The film’s protagonist Larry Sole, a Tlicho youth played by Joel Evans in a stellar acting debut, comes to terms with his traumatic past as he deals with high school bullies. The film premiered earlier this year at the Toronto International Film Festival, and is well worth seeing as it screens more widely.

The 13th annual imagineNATIVE Indigenous Film & Media Arts Festival wrapped up with an awards gala at The Mod Club hosted by actor Billy Merasty, who donned this year’s circus theme and put on his top hat as the ringmaster. The crowd was tired but happy after a week jam-packed with festival events and networking that always ran well into the night.

To take part in the festival as a musician truly demonstrated to me how interconnected Indigenous arts practices are: what’s a film without a soundtrack, or a musician’s single without a music video?

At the end of the festival, my only regret is that I can’t go back and catch everything I missed the first time around. Aho!


Melody McKiver is an Anishinaabe musician, media artist and researcher who splits her time between Ottawa and Toronto. She is currently completing an MA in Ethnomusicology at Memorial University where her research interests include Indigenous electronic music, artistic processes of decolonization, urban Indigeneity, and Two-Spirited studies. For more on Melody's work, follow her on Twitter @m_melody or visit melodymckiver.com

Indigenous Afterdark: Around the Sun - RPM.fm/Skookum One Year Celebration


It's hard to believe that it's already been a year since we launched RPM - and we've got nothing but love for everyone who has supported us and helped us grow. Now it's time to celebrate!

This month marks our first full revolution around the sun here at RPM, and all of our fans—and the incredible Indigenous artists across Turtle Island (and beyond!)—have been keeping us moving and inspired since day one. In anticipation of our anniversary (for the record, an anniversary is a colonial thing), we've teamed up with the 2012 Vancouver Indigenous Media Arts Festival to bring you Indigenous Afterdark: Around the Sun!

Indigenous Afterdark: Around the Sun also marks the one year celebration of Westcoast Indian Country faves Skookum Sound System, who are on the evening's entertainment bill alongside 2008 Vancouver DMC Champion DJ Krisp, Mob Bounce, and DJ Annashay, plus some very special, surprise guests that we're extremely happy to have out! Come and celebrate with us!

Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territories is playing host to amazing Indigenous talent, and we're proud to be a partner in delivering this next level programming with the VIMAFIA.

The RPM/Skookum One Year Celebration will be held Saturday, November 10th at the VIMAF Festival Lounge and Cinema (W2 Media Cafe) at 111 West Hastings Street in Vancouver. Doors open at 9pm for VIMAF's Indigenous Music Video Program, presented by RPM. For more information on their program of events, please visit VIMAF.com.


The Skookum Sound System and RPM.fm One Year Celebration Saturday, November 10, 2012 Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territories FEATURING: Skookum Sound | DJ Krisp | Mob Bounce | DJ Annashay  | ++Very Special Surprise Guests

Hosted by RPM's very own Ostwelve.

Doors @ 9pm. Tickets for Indigenous Afterdark can be found online here: http://aroundthesun.eventbrite.com/


Also, when you buy a VIMAF Festival Pass ($49 early bird, $59 advance, $69 at door) you receive:

Opening Gala tickets 6 additional Features Program screening events 1 VIMAF Conference Pass 1 Ticket to A Tribe Called Red at Fortune Sound Club 1 Ticket to Indigenous Afterdark: Around the Sun 20% off all VIMAF Festival merchandise Total Value: $135+

Available here: http://vimaf2012.eventbrite.com/

See you there!

A Tribe Called Red: Fall Tour Dates 2012


What does A Tribe Called Red do after rocking a solid tour across Europe? They kick ass on another solid tour across North America. Check out their North American tour dates and peeps the latest video from the boys.

Don't miss A Tribe Called Red in one of these cities during the next month. We're glued to our computers because we've heard from a little birdie that they're going to be releasing new tracks and mixes that they recorded while they were across the pond - stay tuned to their tweets for that.



Nov 2nd – Winnipeg @ Aboriginal Music Week (buy tickets)

Nov 3rd – Regina @ The Exchange (buy tickets)

Nov 4th - Saskatoon @ Amigos Cantina (tickets at the door)

Nov 7th - Edmonton @ Temple (buy tickets)

Nov 8th - Calgary @ Hi-Fi Club (buy tickets)

Nov 9th - Vancouver @ Fortune Sound Club (buy tickets)

Nov 11th - Victoria @ Sugar Nightclub

Nov 17th - Brooklyn @ Glasslands (buy tickets)

Nov 19th - Philadelphia @ Fluid Nightclubs Mad Decent Mondays

Nov 22nd - Washington @ U-Hall

APCMA 2012 Nominees - Best Music Video


We have an RPM YouTube playlist of the 2012 Aboriginal People's Choice Awards nominees for Best Music Video.

We've once again reached this chilly part of the year where we choose our favorites in the Aboriginal People's Choice Awards, and this year packs a great selection in all categories. Today we'll look at the nominees for Best Music Video in the 2012 APCMAs.

Beatrice Love - Dirty Game Donny Parenteau - Fiddle Back Cris Derksen - Pow.Wow.Wow Shy-Anne Hovorka - Too Young, Too Late Winnipeg's Most - Winnipeg Boy 

Northern Cree and Cree Confederation at the 2012 APCMAs


2012 APCMA nominated drummers Northern Cree and the Cree Confederation are slated for best duo or group of the year at this years awards show, coming up November 1-2nd, 2012.

Just deadly, these guys. Northern Cree have been rocking the powwow since 1982, keeping the fire going for generations of Indigenous peoples to come.

"More than 20 years of power and raw energy... taking traditional Aboriginal music to the next level..."

They've obviously been leaving them wanting more on the trail as can be seen on Twitter:



Cree Confederation has also been busy on the trail having been to many places across Turtle Island in 2012, including the Gathering of Nations.


Here's are two videos from the two groups, both shot in 2012. Here's wishing the best of luck to both groups at this year's APCMAs!


DOWNLOAD: Ill Citizens ft. Darkside - "Sweet Dreams"


We have another hip-hop track for this week's #RPMDownload Tuesday from Ill Citizens featuring Darkside.

These Winnipeg, Manitoba, Natives Ill Citizens remixed a track from well-known Shock Rocker Marilyn Manson, overlaying it with their flowing lyrics and Indigenized touch.

Keep an eye out for these up and comers as they release more singles in the future.

DOWNLOAD: Ill Citizens ft. Darkside - "Sweet Dreams"