WRITING: Why Ziibiwan is awesome

I had to decline performing at the Kazoo! Fest this year due to travel distance, but my friends at the festival asked me if I would consider writing an article about Ziibiwan for their blog.

Ziibiwan is an emerging artist that I hugely respect, and I recommend checking out his album.

 READ: Why Ziibiwan is Awesome by Melody Megwe-aanakwad McKiver

Aaniin dash Ziibiwan gi-maamakaadendaagozi na?

It seems most appropriate to ask “Why Ziibiwan is awesome” in Anishinaabemowin. Translations between English and Anishinaabemowin, the traditional language of the Anishinaabeg peoples, are always a messy business. Words and concepts don’t always smoothly transition between languages and cultures. These transitions get further impeded after centuries of colonial trauma. I’m questioning my own grammatical translation as I write this, and I know that Ziibiwan and I share similar familial histories of language loss and reclamation amidst Canada’s ongoing colonial violence against Indigenous peoples – even children. That undercurrent of resistance percolates amidst our music, both of us (predominantly) instrumental composers.



I was honoured this past August to be invited home by the youth council of Lac Seul First Nation to help out at their annual youth conference, hold music workshops, and share my music. I had the opportunity to connect with David Hodges of N’we Jinan while we were both in Frenchman’s Head and write and record string arrangements for Echo My Soul and have a cameo in the music video. I’m proud to support the talents of amazing youth (and cousins!) in my family’s community.

SONG CREDITS: Jenelle Manitowabi, Tayler Drew Bottle, Cassie Capay, Chelsea Bunting, Melody McKiver.

Song mixed and produced by David Hodges, Joey Langlois & Melody McKiver.

REVIEWS: Live film scoring at the Arboretum & Asinabka festivals

Some great press from Exclaim! and Ottawa Showbox from the performance on August 19, 2015 at the Arboretum Festival, co presented by the Asinabka Festival, live-scoring films by Mosha Folger and Christian Chapman.

Though the hour felt like a relatively short time in which to display her talents, Anishinaabe artist Melody McKiver’s performance was a captivating confluence of both sound and vision. Dedicating the first half of the set to her standalone solo work, McKiver demonstrated a focused, technical approach to the viola with two original compositions. “Theresa,” written at the height of the Idle No More movement, saw her pluck the strings of her instrument before clicking a loop pedal to layer steady melodies over top, while “Ziigwan” did well to capture the arrival of the spring season, for which it was named.

The second half saw McKiver showcase her film score work, playing compositions in time to projections of two films on the church wall. Aided by her array of pedals, she recreated her impeccably layered four-part viola score for Inuk filmmaker Mosha Folger’s stop-motion production The Big Lemming and her more minimal, emotive score for a segment of Christian Chapman’sEdmazinbiiget, which highlighted her inclusion of reverb and delay effects. 8/10. – Callum Slingerland

Credit: Callum Slingerland, August 19 2015.

And via Eric Scharf at Ottawa Showbox:

Opening the night was Anishinaabe viola player extraordinaire, Melody McKiver. She started with two originals making excellent use of looping pedals and had me captured right. Then she took it up a notch. There is something truly special about watching projected short films as someone performs the soundtrack live. The films, which were projected on the church wall and presented by the Asinabka: Aboriginal Film and Media Arts Festival, were Edmazinbiiget by Christian Chapman and The Big Lemming by Mosha Folger. It was a fascinating experience I want to be a part of again.

Over at Photogmusic, Ming Wu shared some photos:

Melody McKiver @ Arboretum Festival 2015

Melody McKiver @ Arboretum Festival 2015

Melody McKiver @ Arboretum Festival 2015





WRITING: Kitchi Zibi Omàmìwininì Anishinàbe – On Responding To Colonial Nostalgia

I was asked to write an article for the Canadian Music Centre’s online publication Ontario Notations.

Check out our most recent issue of Notations! We feature an article by CMC Associate Composer John Beckwith regarding his piece Wendake/Huronia, written to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Samuel Champlain’s voyage to Lake Huron; however, Beckwith also seeks to reflect the impact of colonialism on First Nations communities in the region. Melody McKiver contributes a thought-provoking commentary on the public commemoration of Canada’s colonial past, and how indigenous artists assert their identities and histories in such a cultural climate. We also feature an interview with artist Ange Loft regarding her Idle No More community project, and we contrast different approaches to artistic research and collaboration that seek to represent the experiences of First Nations communities. (emphasis added)

A direct link to the publication in pdf format is available here.

LIVE RECORDING: Mechanical Forest Sound

Head over to Mechanical Forest Sound who put up a live recording of “Ziigwan” with guest Brandon Valdivia of Mas Aya sitting in on the snare drum.

Closing out this year’s X Avant festival, Lido Pimienta turned her headlining set inside-out, giving stage time over to friends and collaborators who performed in various combinations. Anishinaabe violist Melody McKiver, for example, would show up during the set-capping all-in throwdown, but also played their own material, including a solo piece as well as a collaboration with clarinetist Robert Drisdelle. They led off with this, joined by Mas Aya’s Brandon Valdivia as he wound up a mini solo set of his own.

It was a great evening at the Music Gallery, and keep an eye out in 2015 for Lido Pimienta‘s next album La Papessa, on which I have a guest feature.

Film score – The Big Lemming, directed by Mosha Folger

The Big Lemming from Mosha Folger on Vimeo.

I had the great pleasure of working with Inuk filmmaker Mosha Folger on the score of his latest stop-motion film, based on the print “Avingaluk (The Big Lemming)” by his grandfather Pudlo Pudlat. I wrote and recorded the first draft of this score while in residency at Debajehmujig during April 2014. I re-recorded the final score at Knox United Church in Edwards, Ontario in August 2014. The film premiered this past fall at imagineNATIVE in Toronto.

The score was written for viola in four parts, and was written, recorded, and performed by myself.

MEDIA: Bold As Love in NOW Toronto

NOW Toronto published a Q&A with the music programming collective I work with, Bold As Love. Click through to read the full article.

Rosina Kazi, Jamaias DaCosta, Elwood Jimmy, Cherish Blood, Cris Derksen and Melody McKiver are Bold As Love, the arts collective of poets, musicians, actors and activists committed to community-building and -bridging by bringing people of colour (PoC) and Indigenous artists onstage in multiple disciplines. Saturday (November 15) marks the second in their series of six presentations – this one celebrating the 16th birthday of Kazi’s social-justice-motivated underground electronic band, Lal (with Nicholas “Murr” Murray and Ian De Souza), joined by Montreal spoken word musician Moe Clark.

Bold As Love’s MO is bringing together PoC and Indigenous artists. Why is that important to you?

Jamaias Da Costa, poet/journalist: We share a similar experience of being under-represented in the mainstream. Whether at festivals, concert series or other events, PoC and indigenous artists are often tokenized. We want to forge conversations between indigenous artists and other artists of colour – as well as our audiences. Everyone is welcome, of course, but there are specific experiences that indigenous and PoC artists can speak to.


The Outer Reaches

Via The Music Gallery:

Melody McKiver will soon become a familiar name to Music Gallery audiences. The Anishinaabe musician, researcher, and media artist will be a panelist taking part in the Ethnocultural Baggage and Contemporary Classical Music discussion, perform with Lido Pimienta in the X Avant finale and curate our first Emergents of the year on December 4 (featuring Cory Latkovich’s Clarinet Panic Deluxx and Cree cellist and Tanya Tagaq collaborator Cris Derksen).

She’s just curated an excellent mixtape surveying Tagaq’s catalog and collaborators.  Check it out at RPM.fm

Favourite Music of 2013

Here goes… this has been a fantastic year for music. Some years I feel like I’m stretching out the list to hit ten, but I’ve been constantly revising. I put together a 43 minute mix of some of the stuff on this list if anyone’s interested: http://www.melodymckiver.com/media/2013%20in%20review.mp3

EDIT: Full track list:

Elvis Costello and The Roots – Cinco Minutos Con Vos;
Dawn of Midi – Algol;
Colin Stetson – Brute;
Biipiigwan – Descamisados;
Cakes Da Killa – Fuck Ya Boyfriend;
A Tribe Called Red – Tanto’s Revenge feat. Chippewa Travellers; Trombone Shorty – Vieux Carre;
Frank Waln – Oil 4 Blood (All Red Everything);
Shining Soul – Do;
Tara Williamson – Boy;
Tall Paul – April Fools;
Old Money – Black Pepper;
MIA – Bring The Noize;
T-Rhyme – From Scratch;
Le1f – Damn Son
This list was originally compiled for my friend Waubgeshig Rice, who has an annual mailing list where people share their top picks in music. You can read his list here.
There’s also a lot of overlap with the selections I sent to my friends and colleagues over at RPM.fm – read the choices here.

1. A Tribe Called Red – Nation II Nation


I think this is my third year running they’ve topped my list. There’s been a lot of ink spilled on them this year and I’ve written about them elsewhere, but this is a really big step forwards for them that’s propelled ATCR into the international spotlight. Access to the Tribal Spirit sample catalogue is a huge boost for this release as their production matures. Can’t wait to see what’s next.
2. Dawn of Midi – Dysnomia

I came across these guys in a one-off mention in a Sasha Frere-Jones article, and I was stuck streaming their Soundcloud on repeat for weeks until I finally dug up a CD after trying several Ottawa record stores. Their earlier work was more typical of modern jazz, but here they’ve retained the acoustic piano trio setting, and stripped it down to pure rhythm and texture. They’re not the first to do minimalist / electronic-inspired rhythms in an acoustic setting, but it’s incredibly compelling. Think Steve Reich, Aphex Twin, and Vijay Iyer.
3. Cris Derksen – The Collapse


Another strong sophomore release from the Indigenous music scene. Cris’ compositions have matured, covering a broad range of styles and pushing her cello to the limit. I was fortunate to rehearse and perform with Cris this year, and it’s a treat to watch her work.
4. Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light

Vol. 2 is one of my all-time favourite albums so this was a tough album to follow, but Colin pulled it off. In some places his collaborations with Justin Vernon worked brilliantly (check Justin’s growl on Brute, included on my mixtape), but elsewhere it drowns out the subtleties of Stetson’s work. That being said, the 15-minute title track is one of my most-played songs of the year and shows Colin Stetson at the top of his game. The bass saxophone game might be a small one, but Colin Stetson’s really in a league of his own.
5. Frank Waln – Born Ready EP


I stumbled across Frank Waln’s wise-beyond-his-years tweets on Twitter (really), but checking out this release blew me away. This 24-year old MC from Rosebud Sioux has great flow, does his own productions, and is way smarter than a lot of the Native – or any – MCs out there. Bar raised. Check out Oil 4 Blood, which is both timely after the Northern Gateway announcement, but also my hip-hop beat of the year for flipping Ulali’s Mahk Jchi.
6. Biipiigwan – Something for Everyone; Nothing for Anyone


A great release from Ottawa’s finest sludge metal. I’ll repeat the album three times in a sitting without even noticing. I like hearing a metal band yell about “greed, patriarchy, and racism” – while naming half their tracks in Anishinaabemowin.
7. Elvis Costello & The Roots – Wise Up Ghost
I’m not as familiar with Costello’s catalogue as I should be, but his legend status is undeniable. ?uestlove and the Roots crew are some of my biggest musical influences, and this is a really wonderful collaboration. I’m still slowly unpacking this album, and it grows better with repeat listens.
8. Tall Paul – Birthday Present EP
It’s tough for me to put a 5-song EP on a list, but this EP leads my iTunes playlist in repeat plays after ATCR’s album and Tall Paul’s quickly becoming my favourite MC. Last year’s Prayer in a Song went viral for its Anishinaabemowin chorus (first and only in hip-hop? show me otherwise!) and this year’s lead track April Fools further unpacks that track, situating himself with the challenges of being an adult Anishinaabemowin learner. He works with some really great producers, and his latest single (dropped three days ago) is just killer:https://soundcloud.com/tallpaul612/the-show-act-i-act-ii
9. Trombone Shorty – Say That To Say This
This is a really fun album. Shorty’s one of the current ambassadors of New Orleans music, and he does a great job of bridging the deep heritage of his city with some contemporary sounds. Be My Lady reunites the original Meters (and they’re easily my most-played artist this year without a 2013 release) and hearing them in modern production is a treat. There’s some hard-rocking tracks, some classic New Orleans brass band music, sing-along songs, and Shorty pulls it all off with ease and virtuosity.
10. Tara Williamson – Lie Low EP

Tara just released this at the end of November, so I’ve only had a few weeks to let it sink in but it’s been on repeat. A well-overdue debut from Tara, she’s a smart singer-songwriter-pianist out of Nogojiwanong/Peterborough worth watching out for. Operatic pipes meeting a jazz sensibility with some cabaret sass, and she’s got a killer group of some of Peterborough’s finest musicians backing her up.Honorable mentions: Leanne Simpson’s Islands of Decolonial Love, Kristi Lane Sinclair’s The Sea Alone, Shining Soul’s Sonic Smash, Old Money’s Fire In The Dark, Chris Dave and the Drumheadz, Northern Voice – Dance of the Moon, Cakes Da Killa – The Eulogy, Le1f’s Fly Zone and Tree House, Beaatz, Impossible Nothing, Kinnie Starr, and K-Otic One’s Idle No More mixtape. I haven’t even checked out the latest releases from Gorguts and Four Tet. (ok, and I’m listening to Kanye and Drake a lot as well. I know, I know.)

Clearly, I have narrowing music down into top tens. My stance is always that my favourite music is what I’ve yet to listen to, and making new musical discoveries is one of my greatest pleasures.