Jeremy Parkin surrounds himself with creativity at his music studio in his Riverdale home in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Local acts speak to the importance of music, identity ahead of APTN concerts highlighting Indigenous music

‘It’s important that young artists get their chance to show what they’re doing with their music’

As Jeremy Parkin grows older, so too does his urge to identify as an Indigenous musician, one that does not adhere to tropes but rather bends expectations.

It’s this that he wants to showcase during a Whitehorse concert happening the day following Indigenous Peoples Day, he said. Facilitated by APTN, more than 20 artists will be broadcast live on June 22 from Whitehorse, Calgary and Winnipeg. Performers include Buffy Sainte-Marie, The Jerry Cans and Blue Rodeo.

The event, Parkin, 22, said, “recognizes, basically, the contemporary elements of a thriving culture. It’s important that young artists get their chance to show what they’re doing with their music, just because I think there’s such a diverse spectrum of what Indigenous music and musicians and art should be considered, right? I don’t think it should be a limited scope of what it is.”

Parkin wears many hats. He makes solo music, produces and is part of Whitehorse duo Local Boy. All of his projects are steeped in ambient electronic music and hip-hop.

But his variety is different, he said, in that it’s more personal.

“Not that mainstream electronic music doesn’t have that, but just to more of an introspective degree, I guess,” he said. “So if I’m doing electronic music, it’s really contemporary, it’s weird, it’s made of random sounds, being able to add to this spectrum of what it means to make Indigenous music is important to me.”

Enveloping it is his identity, which is central to his craft, he said.

“When I draw inspiration for making a new song, it’s always internally. A lot of it is identity-based. Growing up as a young Indigenous man has definitely influenced my music.”

The Whitehorse show, hosted at Shipyards Park, has the Julian Taylor Band and Leela Gilday, among others, on its bill. Parkin and Dena Zagi are local “emerging artists” who will take to the stage ahead of the live broadcast, according to the event’s website.

“It’s kind of cool to be the younger guy, you know, just starting to do my thing and really break into the scene, I think,” Parkin said.

Dennis Shorty, a Kaska musician who plays in Dena Zagi, said the event, along with the day itself, provides an opportunity to raise awareness.

“It means a lot because it brings awareness to Indigenous struggles in society in today’s world and to bring awareness to our language, our history, our ancestors that went before that spoke that Dene language,” he said. “It’s really important for the youth to listen to it and hopefully they catch on and learn from it.”

Parkin, who’s from Kwanlin Dün First Nation, is changing gears in September. He’s swapping mountains and fast flowing rivers for the concrete jungle of Toronto. He said he wants to network with other Indigenous musicians there.

“Taking the jump. I want to try a much bigger city. I understand it’s definitely a way different mentality than the Yukon is. You have to hustle to a certain degree here.”

While Whitehorse is supportive, there’s a relatively small niche for the style of music he’s been creating, Parkin said.

“Toronto’s really a hotbed for hip-hop and rap artists right now, so I want to just break into producing for artists there for now, and try to expand on my solo work. It’s reaching a wider demographic of listeners.”

Making the switch is putting his words to task. When asked where he wants his music to take him, he said, “As far as I can absolutely go.”

In Whitehorse, the pre-show on June 22 is set to run from 5:15 p.m. to 6 p.m. The concert starts at 6:30 p.m. and ends at 9:30 p.m.

The concerts from around Canada will be aired on APTN and live-streamed online at indigenousdaylive.ca

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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