Photo Credit : Levi Manchak // DOWNLOAD HI-RES
nêhiyawak hails from amiskwaciy (Edmonton) on Treaty 6 territory. On the band’s debut album, nipiy – out October 24 on Arts & Crafts – the trio of Indigenous artists – Kris Harper (vocals, guitars), Marek Tyler (drums), and Matthew Cardinal (synths, bass) – transcends a new intersection of traditional storytelling and contemporary sound. A collection of songs strongly inspired by the Idle No More movement, says Harper, “nipiy is for those who don’t seem to fit in for a myriad of reasons. To inspire others to use their voice and to send messages to future generations.”
nêhiyawak – whose name refers directly to their nêhiyaw ancestry – is a spirited expression of Indigeneity. nipiy, which translates to water, is the title of nêhiyawak's first full length album. The flow and pace of the album, symbolic of the flow and pace of water, begins and ends with pieces dedicated to kisiskâciwanisîpiy (North Saskatchewan River), a river that flows through the center of amiskwaciy. In the band's words, “There are many important ideas and teachings that we were raised with in our lives, but few more important than water. It’s a modern conversation with complex meanings and understandings.”
To mark the album’s announcement, today the band shares nipiy’s first single – “ôtênaw” – which features the viscerally affective interplay of sonic exploration and cultural meaning that is core to nêhiyawak. The song – the apex of tension on nipiy – puts front and centre the affective and deeply considered lyrics of Harper, here in his most impassioned and strained voice:
we have among us some gentle hands
we also have some others harder to understand
that’s why “they” was made, no you cannot pretend
while wasting one another in the name of the new land
“ôtênaw means city in nêhiyawēwin,” explains Harper. “There are things being spoken to that are directly about cities and how they dominate the social fabric across a plethora of cultures all over the world. Also trying to understand not only historical ways, but also the contemporary factors that lead to this apparatus as something that continues to work and also questioning what that work is. For instance, there is a major reference in the bridge about the creation of ‘they’: not only linguistically but also how that impacts the psychology of people who live in cities.”
Produced by Colin Stewart (The New Pornographers, Black Mountain, Destroyer), nêhiyawak’s sound combines terse post-rock soundscapes with surreal pop and sheer ambient aspects. Anchored by the hollowed pounding of Tyler’s traditional carved cedar log drums and Cardinal’s electronic inflections, nipiy combines the teachings of nêhiyawak’s Elders with the band’s own interests in music, instrumentation and lyrics. nêhiyawak’s debut album tells their story of collective experience – a band empowered by history and progress, compelled to add to the great body of work. As Harper says, “Our goal is not to build up a group of individuals, but rather keep kicking at the door built in front of many.”
Best described in the band’s own words, drummer Marek Tyler offers this context on nêhiyawak:
“A few years back, when talking about nêhiyawak, Matthew [Cardinal] said, ‘it's more than a band.’ His comment stuck with me.
When we started learning songs and writing together, I connected to Kris's lyrics. How did my family deal with the 60's scoop and with residential schools? I thought about my nieces and nephews growing their hair. I thought about my family.
When recording nipiy, my friend Carey Newman, a Kwakwaka'wakw and Coast Salish artist, loaned us a few of his family's drums. A 6 ft x 3 ft elk hide frame-drum, a carved cedar log drum (both Kwakwaka'wakw), and a pow-wow drum. Guided by my family's teachings, I decided to care for the drums in a manner that is in line with our protocols. I asked my family for support to do this work. I became friends with those drums. Together, we played loud. We shared whispers. We had a moment. When I heard those drums back in the studio, they sounded beautiful and proud.
Why is nêhiyawak more than a band? Because our families, our nêhiyaw communities, and our ways of knowing and being inform our work. For me, our album nipiy represents an ongoing process of connecting, learning and growing with each other.”
Sep 26 - Hamilton, ON - McMaster University
Oct 4 - Edmonton, AB - Aviary
Oct 5 - Calgary, AB - King Eddy
Oct 6 - Saskatoon, SK - Amigo’s Cantina
Dec 5 - Vancouver, BC - Museum of Anthropology
Dec 6 - Victoria, BC - Lucky Bar
nêhiyawak nipiy tracklist
1. kisiskâciwanisîpiy pêyak
10. open window
12. kisiskâciwanisîpiy nîso
Meanings: Cree People, People of the Plains, Plains People, Exact People, Free People
Note: There are no letters capitalized in Cree language. Please write name in all lower case.