IIMS highlights some the world’s best Indigenous talent in Canada


International Indigenous Music Summit (IIMS) is an annual gathering that “amplifies Indigenous voices with a commitment to artists, knowledge keepers, and community builders, along with industry allies and cultural innovators”. The summit, which includes daytime programming, community events, and nightly music showcases, returned to the TD Music Hall at Allied Music Centre for another five days of events.

The Opening Night Gala was an impressive showcase of what the week had in store with a curated lineup of live performances that included artists from around the world playing music across a wide range of genres. All speakers and participants shared their languages with the attendees, embracing identities and celebrating resilience, here, on Turtle Island

The showcase was hosted by Chelazon Leroux, a drag performer, comedian, model, and activist who competed on season 3 of Canada’s Drag Race. Throughout the evening Chelazon Leroux kept the audience entertained and informed. One of the showcase slots was a dynamic performance by Chelazon Leroux who left it all on the dancefloor.

First up were Manitou Mkwa Singers (Spirit Bear Singers) from the Mississaugas of the Credit. The complete ensemble is a mother, sis daughters and one son, for this performance, we had the pleasure to see four of the women perform. Dressed in ribbon skirts they performed beautiful pow-wow and round dance songs using just their voices and a hand drum. 

The artist to follow this wonderful traditional performance was Joshua Q (Q for Qaumariaq) who performs soul and blues solo and with The Trade-Offs. With his guitar in hand, accompanied by a drummer, Joshua shared his deep, rusty voice and lyrical songs with the vibing room in both Inuktitut and English. Despite losing two strings during his performance Joshua persevered with laidback triumph.

The Red River Ramblers continued the instrumentally-heavy streak. The Red River Ramblers perform Métis fiddle music, the kind of tunes that make you want to kick your shoes off and dance and some people did just that. This was a high-energy dance-along performance perfectly timed to reenergize the room.

Silla and Rise are another Ontario-based music duo (Cynthia Pitsiulak (Kimmirut, NU) and Charlotte Qamaniq (Iglulik, NU)) who blend traditional Inuit throat-singing with futuristic dance floor beats. The duo started slowly, asking the audience to close their eyes and listen to gate “Goose Song,” taking in the sounds of migration before picking up the pace. Silla and Rise create upbeat music, energized by electronic production layers, journeying in peaks and valleys encouraging the head bops and eventually full-body swings (see “Atausiq – One”).

Swedish-Sámi joik singer and hip hop musician artist Maxida Märak was up next and to say that this performance was an adventure would be an understatement. Transitioning from belly-deep joik vocals to lyrically heavy rap Maxida showed her range with impressive faculty. The ever-changing parallels of sound paired with her comfortable stage appearance made for a memorable performance.

BC’s Snotty Nose Rez Kids (Darren “Young D” Metz and Quinton “Yung Trybez” Nyce) closed out the night with their entertaining and danceable hip-hop showcase. Kicking things off with “Hot Planet” they called for the audience to join them at the front as they eloquently worked through their repertoire including brand new, never-before-heard songs and tracks from the Polaris Music Prize nominee records The Average Savage, TRAPLINE, and I’M GOOD, HBU?.

The opening night IIMS Gala was a carefully curated showcase of Indigenous talent and musical range highlighting artists from around the world and across multiple genres. The week that followed continued to shine the light on an impressive lineup of global Indigenous artists in venues across the city and we certainly cannot wait to see them all return for another IIMS addition in 2025.

All images by Shay Markowitz, courtesy of the International Indigenous Music Summit 

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