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PARTY LIKE A MATRIARCH

PARTY LIKE A MATRIARCH
Photo Credit To Lindsay Eekwol Knight w/DJ Kookum

In this photo: Lindsay Eekwol Knight w/DJ Kookum

A Showcase of Indigenous Female Hip Hop Acts

While the East Coast vs. West Coast Hip Hop debates continue to rage, it’s the female Hip Hop artists who are still vying for a place in the upper echelons of the genre. So it’s important, for the artists and audiences alike, when an evening celebrating women’s Hip Hop acts is presented. It’s validating, it’s honouring, it’s a great night of entertainment, and yes—it’s still necessary.

On August 31, 2014, the 2nd Annual Native Hip Hop Festival dedicated an entire night of all women Hip Hop artists at the Fortune Sound Club on East Pender Avenue in Vancouver, British Columbia. When asked if she had ever been part of a showcase of this nature before, Lindsay Eekwol Knight, one of the main performers of the evening said, “Not so much for Indigenous women. I’ve been invited to Lady-Fest in Ottawa, but for Indigenous ladies, no this will be the first. I’m really excited about this.”

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Eekwol’s motivation for becoming involved in Hip Hop is as common as anyone else working in the genre saying, “It was definitely the beats, the rhythms, the way you can tell a story over a beat—and historically we’ve always been story tellers. So when I first heard Hip Hop, it was just like… this is a perfect medium for us to do this.”

Hip Hop has its own history built on equal parts DJ-ing, MC-ing, Break Dancing, Spray Word/Messages, and a 5th element comprised of Knowledge, Culture and Overstanding. This is not a culture sprung up out of a void. In fact, Hip Hop culture has been known to influence the mainstream and sway political votes. The creative freedom within the genre itself affords those without a voice to proclaim very powerful truths about their lives, injustices within their communities, and to challenge the sophisticated tricks of power, based on power. In Hip Hop, truth is power. So what are the powerful truth-messages coming from our Hip Hop Matriarchs?

Eekwol embraces her political responsibilities as an Indigenous person stating, “I have a song I’ll be performing tonight that starts out saying ‘I’m Born Political’ – having the history we have on this land, there’s no way you can’t speak about rights and issues because it’s all around—from the minute we’re on this earth—we have to be unafraid to do that.” Inez Jasper, a self-made singer with a very strong fan-base uses her life and career to inspire and empower Indigenous people especially the women: “We all have goals and dreams in our hearts, and I like to be an example of what that journey looks like.” Inez’s philosophy and her message are clear, “It’s important to express who we truly are, our authentic selves—what ever that happens to be.

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The variety of performers at the Party Like a Matriarch event was as diverse as the nations they represent, from the young highly sexualized solo act prowling the width of the stage, a lead vocalist framed by two female dancers, to the throw-back sweat-pants-wearing veteran, and the glamorous evenly-tanned and polished stage acts in this showcase. The women are being themselves, not a version of what someone told them to be. To do anything different wouldn’t make them Matriarchs.

Despite the sexist, stereotypical woman pitted against woman notions, there were no signs of tensions or competitive one-upmanship behavior going on, on stage or behind the scenes. One of the organizers of the Festival posted a congratulatory comment on the night’s success boasting that all the performers were where they needed to be, when they needed to be there. Clearly his note speaks more to the less than professional conduct of some male Hip Hop performers, but when you invite Matriarchs, that’s exactly what you get.

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Party Like a Matriarch’s performers were:

Lindsay Eekwol Knight

Beka Solo

Inez Jasper

Niska Napoleon

Tara Campbell

Crystal J Schooner

Cheyanna J. V. Kootenhayoo

Lizzy DaniandLizzy

Cheyene Papequash

Christie Lee

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About The Author

Janet Rogers

Janet Rogers is a Mohawk/Tuscarora writer from the Six Nations band in southern Ontario. She was born in Vancouver British Columbia and has been living on the traditional lands of the Coast Salish people (Victoria, British Columbia) since 1994. Janet works in the genres of poetry, spoken word performance poetry, video poetry and recorded poetry with music and script writing. Janet has three published poetry collections to date; Splitting the Heart, Ekstasis Editions 2007, Red Erotic, Ojistah Publishing 2010, Unearthed, Leaf Press 2011. Her newest collection “Peace in Duress” will be released with Talonbooks in September 2014.  Her poetry CDs Firewater 2009, Got Your Back 2012 and 6 Directions 2013 all received nominations for Best Spoken Word Recording at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards and the Native American Music Awards.  You can hear Janet on the radio as she hosts Native Waves Radio on CFUV fm and Tribal Clefs on CBC radio one fm in Victoria BC. Her radio documentaries “Bring Your Drum” (50 years of indigenous protest music) and Resonating Reconciliation won Best Radio at the imagaineNATIVE Film and Media festival 2011 and 2013. Ikkwenyes or Dare to Do is the name of the collective Mohawk poet Alex Jacobs and Janet created in 2011. Ikkwenyes won the Canada Council for the Arts Collaborative Exchange award 2012 and a Loft Literary Prize in 2013.

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