The 10 Best Indigenous Musical Moments of 2012

‘Tis the season for looking back on the year that was: reflecting on the highs and lows, and seeing what music moments stand out in our memories. It’s an interesting time for reflection, with all the hope and passion currently rising among our people, so let’s take a moment to reflect on the incredible Indigenous music that found its way to us in 2012.

From new albums, EPs, and videos to standout performances and collaborations from all corners of Turtle Island and beyond, here are our Top 10 picks for the Best Indigenous Musical Moments of 2012—the songs we’ve been raving about and playing on repeat this past year and the sounds that stood out in our hearts, minds and ears.

10. Bear Fox x The 1491s, “Rich Girl”

It all starts with watching NAMMY award-winning musician Bear Fox, in collaboration with Bobby from Native comedy crew The 1491s, perform her song Rich Girl. The song touches on the issues of growing up in an Indigenous environment with very little in material wealth but having riches in culture and in the beauty of Indigenous life with family. Nothing like live and unplugged for some of the best musical moments:

9. NRG Rising, “From Darkness to Light”

“From darkness to light” is an apt description at this time of year as the hours of sunlight finally begin to get longer in the Northern hemisphere, and as our people rise up and unite. It’s also the name of our next pick from NRG Rising, the New Zealand reggae band that features three powerful Maori women – a mother and two daughters – who create conscious, soulful work. We love this track.

Watch NRG RisingFrom Darkness to Light:

8. The Medics, “Foundations”

The Medics Foundations was the much anticipated debut LP from one of Australia’s brightest new bands. And it rocked. Percussive, passionate, potent. Turn it up and let it ride.

Listen to the opening track Beggars:

7. Skookum Sound System, “Nawala”

As individuals, vocalist/song carrier Csetkwe, DJ/producers Deano (Dean Hunt) and Impossible Nothing (Darwin Frost), and video artist Amphibian14 (Bracken Hanuse Corlett), have been honing their skills for years. But just over a year ago, these four artists joined forces to form the dynamic audio/visual collective Skookum Sound System. And the result is killer. The collective itself is one of our favourite “moments” of the year, but here’s one particularly bumping beat for you to get into:

6. Thelma Plum, “Untitled”

It’s been a breakout year for this 17-year-old Indigenous singer-songwriter from Brisbane, Australia. Thelma Plum‘s voice and writing exceed her years with a timeless quality that can transport you to another time and place. With only a few tracks available online, we’re all waiting for more, but it’s easy to revel in what she’s already shared with the world thus far. We love this live, unplugged performance of Untitled:

5. Nick Sherman, Drag Your Words Through

In the rip your heart out in a good way category, the debut album from Nick Sherman, Drag Your Words Through, is rooted in folk/rock and full of earnest yet thoughtful and well crafted songs. They stick to your bones and Sherman’s rich, textured vocals is a fine sound indeed. We’ve been spinning it all year long. Listen to the track Winterdark here:

4. Samantha Crain, “It’s Simple”

Miss Samantha Crain started the year off great with the release her 7″ single A Simple Jungle and no one’s forgotten the two catchy tunes it was comprised of. Her indie spun americana vibe shines in the tracks It’s Simple and Cadwell Jungle. It’s been enough to keep us going all year and we’re ready for her new album to drop in a couple weeks!

Watch the video for It’s Simple:

3. Cris Derksen, “Pow Wow Wow”

There was no shortage of killer music videos on our screens this year. Cris Derksen (who we also tagged as an Indigenous Musicians to watch in 2012) has one of our favourites. As part of APTN’s First Tracks program and with acclaimed Indigenous director Lisa Jackson at the helm, Derksen released this intergalactic, fancy dance-filled three-and-a-half minutes of pure gold:

A Tribe Called Red, S/T

Loved as much across Indian Country as nightclub dancefloors, the increasingly popular purveyors of “pow wow step” navigated the diverse musical landscapes of hip-hop, dancehall, moombahton and electronic styles on their eponymous debut full-length album and, having posted the entire record as a free download on their site, it spread like wildfire. As a collective, it’s been an outstanding year for ATCR – we weren’t kidding when we also included them in Indigenous Musicians to watch in 2012. And it’s safe to say we can expect more big things from DJ NDN, Bear Witness and DJ Shub in 2013. They’re just getting started.

If you don’t have it already, you can still grab their debut album here:


1. The Round Dance Revolution: Idle No More

Of course, in the so-obvious-do-we-really-need-to-even-mention-it category, we couldn’t possibly round up the best moments in Indigenous music in 2012 without mentioning the #RoundDanceRevolution that is currently underway across the globe under the banner of #IdleNoMore. Unless you’ve been living in a different universe in the past month, by now you’ve likely heard our peoples’ words, songs, drums and dances echoing out from highways, railway lines, government buildings, and your local shopping centre to virtually every corner the Internet. And on the evening before the winter solstice, before one of the largest Indigenous mobilizations in recent history, Ryan McMahon eloquently brought together much of what was already racing through the malls and minds of our people across Indian Country: the revolution was starting—and this was its soundtrack.

As the round dances, stick and bone games, and other gatherings and song circles spread across the globe over the holidays, it’s no wonder that Naomi Klein said: “The #idlenomore round dances taking over shopping malls during xmas rush r the most subversion actions I’ve ever seen #rounddancerevolution.” But the spirit of the movement is not just subversive, it is joyful and creative—so it makes sense that, as we head into the new adventures of 2013, we look back on something that offers us an important and inspiring foundation from which to step into new beginnings.

Read Ryan McMahon’s full post here: The Round Dance Revolution: Idle No More

And here’s video of an #IdleNoMore New Year’s Eve Round Dance in Winnipeg—taking over the main intersection of Portage and Main:

What a year! We can’t wait to see what 2013 brings. See you at the round dance!

1 Comment

  1. molly

    wow, nice montage. The human in us all is waking up. I hear a soundtrack of drum and voice is in each of us and social media favours song and dance. Let’s all contribute to the good fire.
    thank you, all my relations.