Since time immemorial, Indigenous people have connected to the land; an inspirational source for music. Traditional songs have come about from dreams, ceremonies, listening to nature, prayer and life experiences.
For many nations music is believed to be sacred, primarily for its purpose; songs are gifts for celebration, to honour, to ultimately connect to spirit. In spite of failed colonial attempts (i.e. residential schools) to silence Indigenous voices, traditional music is thriving today. Contemporary artists have also adopted many musical styles to speak up against injustices, dispossession, and have used music as a form of resistance. Many artists have also shared unique cultural histories, perspectives and languages. In doing so, Indigenous artists have fostered dialogues and understanding which have and continue to radically shift the Canadian paradigm of whom First Nation, Métis and Inuit people are. Speak Up! will showcase an annual selection of First Nation, Métis and Inuit artists from across Canada who have left their mark on culture through music.
Click here for a text transcription.
Speak Up! is curated by David McLeod (member of the Pine Creek First Nation, MB), Indigenous programming consultant.
Buffy Sainte-Marie is a living legend, and a tireless advocate for Indigenous rights and freedoms. She is an innovative artist, an educator, and a disruptor of the status quo who is always moving herself and society forward...(read more)
John Arcand is a master of traditional Métis fiddling. He has dedicated his life to being an educator, performer, and advocate of Métis culture; to promote and popularize a rich musical heritage...(read more)
Singer-songwriter, filmmaker, and political activist Willie Dunn was an uncompromising force in Canadian folk music... (read more)
Dr. Duke Redbird, Elder, Wisdom Keeper, activist, educator, and artist... (read more)
Tanya Tagaq is an award-winning Inuk throat singer, visual artist and best-selling author from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut... (read more)
Seventh Fire was an eclectic rock band formed in Ottawa in 1989... (read more)
Anishinaabe MC/Singer/Songwriter Leonard Sumner's storytelling originates and flows from the shores of his homeland known as the Little Saskatchewan First Nation located in Treaty 2 Territory... (read more)
The Northern Cree Singers are an acclaimed powwow group, founded in 1982 by brothers Steve, Earl and Randy Wood from the Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta... (read more)
Hailing from Maskwacis, Alberta, War Party was a groundbreaking Cree group with a long-standing legacy in Canada’s hip-hop scene... (read more)
Classically trained vocalist and musician Jeremy Dutcher creates music that stretches across a century of history... (read more)
Electronic trip-hop singer-songwriter iskwē sparks dialogue with her politically-charged lyrics and outspoken stances on topics ranging from pipelines to suicide prevention... (read more)
Alanis Obomsawin is a celebrated singer-songwriter, director and activist... (read more)
Kinnie Starr is a genre-defying, Calgary born and raised, mixed-blood European/Mohawk artist blazing an influential trail... (read more)
Charlie Panigoniak (ᓵᓕ ᐸᓂᒍᓂᐊᖅ), recipient of the Order of Nanavut, was a groundbreaking Inuk guitarist/singer-songwriter/storyteller who many northerners consider to be "the father of Inuktitut music"... (read more)
Founders of Inuktitut rock, Northern Haze trace their beginnings to the mid-seventies, when bandmates Kolitalik Inukshuk, Naisana Qamaniq, James Ungalaq, Elijah Kunnuk and John Inooya bonded over gritty rock music in their small Arctic village, Igloolik, Nanavut... (read more)
“If I don’t use my voice, someone else will try to speak for me. Music is the language I used to break my silence, and to connect with others who feel that fight bursting in their hearts.”
“Music is connected to the land it originates from. For what would two people be from different lands if not for music? All music speaks the same language to one’s heart.”
— Steve Wood, Northern Cree
With great appreciation
Artists and artist management for their contributions to the exhibition
National Music Centre Indigenous Programming Advisory Committee (more info)
Design and Development
Curated by David McLeod
Original Speak Up! design by Tim Neal (The Engagement Party)
Ongoing updates of Speak Up! are proudly supported by