(amiskwacîwâskahikan (Edmonton), AB)
Sweeping, like the wind blowing across the northern prairies; grand, like a solemn ceremony — the emotional indie-rock of nêhiyawak is perfectly situated in the place of its origin. It’s modern while retaining roots in music far older than rock ‘n’ roll, and it’s 100 percent home-grown.
Drummer Marek Tyler and guitarist-songwriter Kris Harper are cousins from the Onion Lake Cree Nation on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border north of Lloydminster. Along with bassist Matthew Cardinal, they are veterans of the Edmonton and national indie rock scene; the three have played in Diamond Mind, Meatdraw, Pale Moon Lights, and Kathryn Calder’s band, among others. Now, with nêhiyawak, these young indigenous musicians have created a special alchemy.
nêhiyawak, pronounced neh-HEE-o-wuk, is the Crees’ eponym. Naming your band after your nation is a big, bold move, but nêhiyawak is up to the challenge. By taking a traditional approach to their process — requesting permission to play in other cities or going to a sweat lodge to inform their creative decisions — they’re infusing their modern, urban aesthetic with the deep cultural memories and traditions of their forebearers. As a result, resonating synth tones and edgy guitar riffs sound completely at home with the pulsing, organic sounds of cedar wood noisemakers and hand drums. Tyler sums up their bridgemaking perfectly when he says “This is nêhiyawak — where culture meets chord, melody and rhythm.”