Called ‘One to Watch’ by The Grid TO and one of the ‘Top 10 Canadian Musicians You Need to Know’ by CBC Music, Iskwé’s cross-cultural aesthetic is as striking as her tripped-out blend of soul. The name Iskwé (pronounced iss-kway) means ‘woman’ in her native language. Iskwé’s debut album weaves together her Irish and Cree/Dene roots with hip hop breakbeats, left-field R&B, and traces of piano pop (Think Esthero meets Alicia Keys).
The album incorporates an amalgam of sonic techniques that embrace mood and atmosphere while echoing traditional pop codes. Vintage record crackles and downtempo undercurrents on “So Over You” bring to mind the trip hop ambiance of Portishead, seguing into the hip-swaying beats of “Recycle,” featuring a cameo from M1 of Dead Prez, and shaped around Iskwé’s smooth-as-butter vocals.
The pop/soul diva tries her hand at electronica on “Wandering,” a cut that swirls into club-banging territory with its massive dubstep drops.
“One Better” is a call-to-action break-up anthem sung with the pain of past experience, while the equally empowering closing track “Slack Jaw, which features crawling electro-fused basslines and scorching guitars courtesy of Donna Grantis (current guitarist for Prince), Iskwé can’t hide her apathy to try and fit into the current pop landscape with lines, such as “I ain’t got no energy to make it as a pop/rock star. Even though I’ve been dreaming that I’d go far.”
“Slack Jaw” was also recently listed as #1 on the National Aboriginal Music Countdown, and was voted regional finalist of CBC Music’s Searchlight competition.
The Winnipeg-bred, Toronto-based singer-songwriter, who has also had stints in LA and NYC, has performed alongside Motown greats The Funk Brothers and electronic DJ crew A Tribe Called Red. Singing about her struggle to fit into/break away from Western archetypes, Iskwé’s connection to her roots and traditions is an important part of her artistic vision. With her debut effort, Iskwé carves out her own musical identity, bridging her modern and cultural influences while challenging the current mold.
“Iskwé’s self-titled debut album is as beautifully written as it is executed. Her voice is both wonderfully smooth and commanding of attention. The smoke-filled jazz-room feel is a breath of fresh air in a stagnant Canadian pop scene” – Dee Jay NDN, A Tribe Called Red.”
“Empowerment R&B and diva-in-the-making soul-pop swoops, from one of the coolest looking women in Canadian music. Ke$ha only wishes she could pull off this style.” – Andrea Warner, CBC Music
“Of Cree and Irish descent, Iskwé’s soulful, powerful vocals hit a classic tone in the vein of Shirley Bassey or Amy Winehouse. Here, they’re complimented 2014-style by R&B and trip-hop beats.” – Grant Lawrence, CBC Music