SOCAN presented five SOCAN No. 1 Song Awards at the 2021 edition of the Osheaga Festival in Montréal, held Oct. 1-3: one award each to Ruby Waters, JJ Wilde, and bülow, and two to Charlotte Cardin – all of whom played standout sets at the once again “live-and-in-person” event.

Ruby Waters earned her SOCAN No. 1 Song Award for “Blow,” co-written with Sam Willows and Terry Sawchuck, which reached the top of the CBC Music Top 20 on May 13, 2021.

JJ Wilde took home the hardware for “Mercy,” co-written with Brett Emmons, which scaled the peak of the Nielsen BDS Modern Rock chart twice, on both March 1st and April 19, 2021.

bülow accepted her plaque for “Revolver,” co-written with professional songwriters Lowell, Nathan Ferraro, and Mike Wise, and published by Hyvecity Music, which attained the zenith of the CBC Music Top 20 on July 22, 2021.

Charlotte Cardin won two No. 1 Song Awards, one each for “Meaningless” and “Daddy,” both co-written with her frequent collaborators  Jason Brando and Marc-André Gilbert. There were two co-writers on “Daddy,” Mathieu Sénéchal and Marco Nicodemo, while Cardin’s publisher, on all of her songs, is Red Brick Music Publishing. “Daddy” topped the CBC Music Top 20 on March 4, 2021, and “Meaningless” reached No. 1 on the CBC Music Top 20 on April 20, 2021, and  the Top Radio Correspondents Anglophone chart on May 17, 2021.

Presenting the awards on behalf of SOCAN were our Chief Membership Officer Jean-Christian Céré; Manager, A&R, Melissa Cameron-Passley; and A&R Executives Racquel Villagante (Los Angeles) and Sara Dendane (Montréal). Also attending for SOCAN were Paroles & Musique online magazine Editor Eric Parazelli and Communications and Marketing Generalist Marie-Michèle Bouchard.

SOCAN congratulates our members on these great accomplishments!

SOCAN recognized Canada’s first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30, 2021, with insight, education, and music from singer-songwriter and SOCAN Member, William Prince; opera singer and member of SOCAN’s Board of Directors Rhonda Head; and artist manager and arts administrator Alan Greyeyes.

All SOCAN staff spent the morning of the day reviewing the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and the 46 Articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as other reading materials, online exhibitions, videos, and resources, all to familiarize themselves with both the history and current situation of Indigenous peoples.

The afternoon consisted of an online event for all employees, executives, and the board of directors, beginning with SOCAN Vice-President of International Relations Catharine Saxberg interviewing Alan Greyeyes, member of the Peguis First Nation and owner of the artist management firm Ogichidaa Arts.

Greyeyes explained that Indigenous peoples’ rights come from being on the land “since time immemorial,” and that as such, “we’re not equity-seeking, but sovereignty-affirming.” As an arts administrator, he talked about having to apply for smaller project grants (in the tens of thousands of dollars) rather than larger, long-term operating grants (in the hundreds of thousands), for which many Indigenous organizations don’t qualify under the current rules. Although he appreciates that First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples are gaining a seat at the table of many organizations in the Canadian music ecosystem, Greyeyes said, “We need to build our own table.”

The we then viewed a video speech from Rhonda Head, member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, opera singer, songwriter, and newly elected member of SOCAN’s Board of Directors. A child of residential school survivors, Head discussed how they “told their stories to deaf ears,” and said that it took a lot of therapy for her to even be able to talk about it. “Getting into music saved my life,” she said, and explained how she began to adapt Italian opera passages with her own Cree language, and eventually ended up playing at world-renowned venues like the Metropolitan Opera House and Carnegie Hall in New York City. We then viewed a powerful video for her song, “500 Years.”

William Prince, member of the Peguis First Nation and winner of the 2020 SOCAN Songwriting Prize (English), capped the day with moving, heartfelt online performances of three songs: “7,” about the Indigenous Seven Grandfather Teachings of Wisdom, Love, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, Humility, and Truth; “Run,” a new song written for the 40th anniversary of the Terry Fox Run, about the kindness and empathy in the final steps of both Fox and Gord Downie; and “Wasted,” about finding inspiration wherever it may be, and following it, without wasting a single day.

SOCAN thanks Alan Greyeyes, Rhonda Head, and William Prince for providing SOCAN with the motivation to constantly and consistently pursue the truth, and improve the process, on our journey of reconciliation.

Unlike so many musicians during the pandemic, Shoshona Kish and Amanda Rheaume weren’t trying to find ways fill up too much time on their hands.

Besides their longstanding and successful careers as singer-songwriters and recording artists themselves, Kish (who is Anishinaabekwe, and a member of the JUNO Award-winning duo Digging Roots) and Rheaume (Métis Nation and a Canadian Folk Music Award winner) have busy lives as activists in their Indigenous communities.

They first met onstage at the Ottawa Folk Festival in 2003, and in 2017 they got together to launch the International Indigenous Music Summit, now in its fourth year. It was while working on the Summit that they first considered the idea of launching a record label of their own. Their partnership proved to be bigger than the sum of its two parts. According to Rheaume, “It’s sisterhood, like family. The connection and the alchemy is just that much stronger.”

First Up: Aysanabee
Ishkode Records’ first signing is Toronto-based Oji-Cree singer-songwriter Aysanabee. The multi-instrumentalist creates genre-defying music, which makes him a perfect fit for the new label, and his debut Ishkode release will be an album in 2022. “I think it’s really exciting,” says Kish, “and I think that these are voices that haven’t been heard. I think we’re going to hear all sorts of new sounds and new ideas that we currently don’t have access to.”

Ishkode Records (pronounced, ish-KOH-day) – the first major-label-distributed (by Universal) Canadian record company created and run by Indigenous women – is the end result. On a three-way conference call, Kish explains that “As we were looking at the ecology of indigenous music here and abroad, we came to realize some of the big gaps” that existed and had to be filled.

Launching the label, which references its name from an Anishinaabe prophecy, wasn’t motivated by frustration with the music industry in general, nor a determination to make a statement of their own. “It was mostly inspiration,” says Kish. “There’s just so much extraordinary talent – these incredible voices and human beings that you want to work with, that you want to be a part of amplifying to the world.”

Just as their own music is completely distinctive from each other’s, the music to be found on Ishkode promises to be unpredictable. “Indigenous people and our nations, we’re so diverse,” says Rheaume. “It’s not all just the same.” The label, she said, will be “focusing on authenticity and truth telling. There are so many artists who are courageous, and are defining their own space, instead of trying to fit into a space that already exists.”

The label’s primary goal isn’t to create an umbrella definition for Indigenous music, but to provide a space devoted to narrative sovereignty. “Narrative sovereignty is really about self-determination,” says Kish. “How we tell our own stories – it’s a core thing that Indigenous people are fighting for. It’s an inherent right.”

While COVID-19 may have created the right space in time for both of them to embark on a new journey, “It would have happened inevitably,” says Kish. “Given everything that has happened in the world, it felt that to be engaged in really meaningful work, and make a real contribution, was very important to us at the time.” The label’s first release was the Digging Roots single, “The Healer,” on Aug. 5, 2021. Kish said they’ll have, “new offerings, new signings to announce In the upcoming weeks and months.”