Digging Roots coming to the St. Lawrence Stage

MORRISBURG – Among many other Canadian and international honours, Digging Roots was the 2023 Juno winner for Contemporary Indigenous Group of the Year. This extraordinary six member musical group, led by powerful singer/songwriters ShoShona Kish and Raven Kanatakta, has won the hearts of audiences world wide. Digging Roots has appeared at the National Arts Centre, the Ottawa Jazz Festival, Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival, the Edmonton Folk Festival. The band has also toured Australia, the US, Mexico, Norway, England, France, Ireland and Finland. In 2022, they released the critically acclaimed album, ‘Zhawenim.’

On Saturday, May 4, at 7pm, Digging Roots will be at Upper Canada Playhouse, the final show in the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage’s 2023-24 season.

Digging Roots more than lives up to its reputation for being “in the front line of the fight for equity and representation in the arts” and for creating a band that is “….badass, empowering and hopeful all at the same time.”

Sometimes described as a musical group which blends folk, rock, pop, blues and even hip hop, I asked Raven about Digging Roots’ distinctive sound. “Our music is based on groove, melody and lyrical content,” she said. “It’s music that is based around our heartbeat: we sing where we come from, as Anishinabe and Onkwehon. Our melodies come from the land and the inspirations of life.” She explained that each song itself “tells us where it wants to go.” The song determines its own tempo, style and inflections. “There’s a wonderful segment of getting acquainted with each song, and knowing its spirit. Songs become breathing gifts of living expression.”

Musical inspiration for these performers comes from many, many sources. “Artists are like sponges, collecting memories and experiences that get expressed through song. We are blue birds and ravens calling through birdsong…We sing about everything,” Raven said. “Compassion, colonialism, liberation, healing, trauma, family – collaboratively we talk and discuss how life is affecting us. We then conspire with our creativity, song seeds are planted, then born. That collaborative process is different each time. Life is constant change: so is our songwriting process.”

Digging Roots, the full band, is coming to the Playhouse, and the musicians are looking forward to the concert. “We love bringing our music to communities. It’s a process that’s vulnerable, sacred, and always filled with creative expression. We haven’t played the Playhouse before, so it will be exciting.”

Ten years ago Digging Roots performed in another venue locally, but “we are really looking forward to connecting with the Morrisburg audience. And we are really pleased to have our mate, Mike Celia, joining us to open the show with songs from his new album. Digging Roots will have four part harmonies, and lots of guitar for fans. We’re going to bring a Round Dance too, but first we’ll read the audience to see if they’re into it,” Raven added. It promises to be a night full of surprizes, delights and some incredible music.

Opening for Digging Roots will be singer/songwriter Mike Celia whose “smokey voice and emotive lyrics will both charm and haunt you…reminding us of the importance of song.” Although he has been called an R&B artist, Mike says that “I think singer/songwriters like myself function like a slow cooker, fusing together a history of experience and musical influences to created their own unique sound.” He too finds inspiration in many places, but “most often I find myself writing about relationships in all their many forms…Perhaps the most common way I write a song, begins by stumbling upon a melody or a progression of chords that strikes me in a profound way as I noodle around on the guitar. Sometimes I don’t even know when I’m discovering a new song,” Mike said. He listens to those melodies that have come to him, “and if I start to feel a story, I just lean into that and see where it leads me.”

Mike loves performing live, but admits it is “the most vulnerable way to share music with an audience. You have to stand right there in the light or darkness of it while the audience takes it all in.” But the experience of sharing his songs, of communicating through his music directly with people, “is both humbling and empowering. There is nothing else I can think of in my life that gives me the same feeling. It’s truly a gift.”

The audience at this concert can look forward to an evening of “music, stories and vulnerability” from artist Mike Celia as he shares his considerable gifts, opening for Digging Roots.

Saturday, May 5, Upper Canada Playhouse, welcomes Digging Roots, a group renowned for bringing the world “healing, compassion, unconditional love and Baamaadziwin (the good life)” through their music. It will be a great concert to end this season of outstanding St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage performances.

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