Iskwé puts up her dukes

The artist uses trip hop and folk mu­sic to de­clare a call to ac­tion on The Fight Within.


Iskwé w/Ro­cocode and Ar­son­iste Fri­day, Novem­ber 10, 9pm The Car­leton, 1685 Ar­gyle Street, $8/$12

I skwé,a genre-bend­ing artist based in Hamil­ton, con­cerns her­self less with how to de­scribe her mu­sic and more with the kind of change her mu­sic can cre­ate.

Pulling from trip hop, R&B and tra­di­tional folk mu­sic, her new al­bum The Fight Within epit­o­mizes both her mu­si­cal cre­ativ­ity and po­lit­i­cal charge. “I won’t be afraid/lay me down in the shade,” a lyric from the tow­er­ing sin­gle “No­body Knows,” can be read al­most as a state­ment of in­tent for an artist who works across gen­res to find hope in de­spair. Iskwé doesn’t shy away from dark­ness or let dif­fi­cul­ties dis­cour­age her. In a word, she’s fear­less.

The Fight Within, which was re­leased at the begin­ning of the month, is Iskwé’s first al­bum since her 2013 de­but and rep­re­sents a bold step for­ward in both sound and sub­ject mat­ter. The record’s lyrics of­ten read like calls to ac­tion: Iskwé cov­ers topics in­clud­ing miss­ing and mur­dered In­dige­nous women and girls, the youth sui­cide cri­sis and the lack of ac­cess to clean drink­ing wa­ter in In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties. When sung atop con­tem­po­rary trip hop pro­duc­tion, how­ever, her mes­sage feels de­cid­edly up­lift­ing—a mes­sage she says she’s ex­cited to share with Hal­i­fax lis­ten­ers at The Car­leton on Fri­day.

“The Fight Within is meant to be more of a col­lec­tive fight,” she says. “How do we par­tic­i­pate in mak­ing change, start­ing with our­selves but see­ing that spill over into com­mu­nity, into so­ci­ety, into where we fit on a global scale? And how we can par­tic­i­pate in mak­ing change for our fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, so in time we don’t con­tinue to re­peat the same mis­takes that his­tory has made?”

Iskwé, who takes part of her Cree name as her artis­tic moniker, says her Indi­gene­ity is some­thing that in­flu­ences both the mu­sic she makes and the cul­tural is­sues she chooses to bring to light. “One of my rea­sons for choos­ing that name is that it gave me a sense of strength and con­nec­tion to that part of my spirit,” she says. “To go af­ter some­thing where my main goal, my main man­date, is to raise aware­ness on cul­tural is­sues, I felt it was re­ally im­por­tant to em­brace and honour that part of my spirit, and call on the spirit to walk with me in it.”

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