Since forming in 2004 the husband and wife team of Digging Roots has had quite the fairy tale success story. They met at an audition for a music festival, won it and have gone on to write three records together in their own studio, tour across Canada/US/Mexico/ Australia, raise a family and win awards.Their third album ‘For The Light’ was released June 2014. It’s an album best described as having an indefinable sound with a combination of rock, hip hop and blues and has been nominated for Best Aboriginal Album at the Juno Awards this weekend. Their goal is to use music to spread love and affect positive change in this crazy world.
“I’d thought it made sense to dedicate this to Stephen Harper,” ShoShona Kish of Digging Roots says as she introduces the song ‘HWY 17’ to a crowd in New York. When asked about what the dedication meant, her partner, Raven Kanatakta explained that they “just wanted to shine a light on the truth……when there are 1200 missing and murdered indigenous women…in one of the most privileged places in the world, we have to look at the system and where it’s failing”. ‘HWY 17’ is one of the tracks featured on their new album ‘For The Light’.
When reflecting on their success together they say, “Its really the sweetest to travel all over with your best friend exploring the world; and writing songs about it all. Just being able to continue this process is an ongoing success. The best part is that its not done – we’re just getting started”.
Kanatatka got his start at the age of 13 when his grandpa would visit with his guitar and play Johnny Cash tunes. Soon he was hooked and learned what he could from fellow guitarists on his home reservation while also being influenced by the great Jimi Hendrix. He later pursued a music degree from Berklee in Boston, but says that certain key life events occurred that have heavily influenced him musicality more ways than his degree has. It was around this time that Kanatakta and Kish met auditioning for a music festival. Kish was studying music at Carleton University. They would go on to release 3 albums, with the first and most recent being nominated for Juno Awards. Their Inspiration for these albums came from how they experience the world from their own personal vantage point and their traditional teachings. “The Seven Grandfathers teachings are beautiful and influences a lot of how we see things” Kanatakta says, “if you write from your heart your original teachings will be apart of every word and phrase”.
When their writing is influenced by a political subject they tend “to let it flow….as indigenous people we don’t chose to be politicized; its just the natural state”, he says “One just needs turn on the national news in this country. We also see the world changing and we want to be a part of that. We want make sure those changes are for the better. We are currently writing more songs about love, the songs are still about the same things but from that angle. We want to move people with love”. For HWY 17, “the lyrics speak metaphorically about locking ‘trouble’ in a box and leaving it behind. It directly speaks to the subject of violence against women, the ‘HWY of Tears’ and the 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous women from this country”. While the song directs light on the controversial political matter, it is not a vengeance song. It’s an empowering song of women taking a stand against the violence and darkness that they face. Digging Roots wants to redefine “that old country blues cliche and speak directly about the issues while still telling their own story”
The duo believes that “genres are strange and useless labels that are made up to package and sell music”. They like to create music that they feel that will move listeners and has no boundaries. “In the end labels get thrown out and it just becomes music…..Right now we’re listening to a lot of rocksteady and desert music. So you never know, sprinklings of those influences may find their way onto the next album”.
Catch the Digging Roots at the JUNOFest show on Saturday, March 14th at Bay City Music Hall.
Check out Digging Roots video for “I’ve Got it Bad” below