It's a night of Cree immersion this weekend at The Aviary, as Cikwes brings the Cree language front and centre
By Jesse Cole | December 6, 2023
Despite singing mostly in Cree, Edmonton’s Connie LeGrande doesn’t consider herself a “traditional” Cree artist. Instead, the Juno Award-nominated singer-songwriter sees herself more as a musical ambassador.
“The intention is the revitalization of the language. That’s always been big for me,” LaGrande says over the phone, calling in from the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, where she’s finishing up a musical residency.
“There’s actually not very many … Indigenous musicians who are singing in their language, especially within our territory in the Edmonton area,” she says. “There are other Cree singers, yes, but they don’t have the platform that I have right now.”
In a few days, LeGrande, who performs under the pseudonym Cikwes (pronounced Chih-kwees), will use that platform to share her language and her art with audiences when she performs at The Aviary on December 9.
The songs, which LeGrande refers to as nêhiyawêwin spirituals (meaning “in the Cree language”), are from her most recent album, kâkîsimo.
Written over the course of the pandemic and released in 2023, kâkîsimo has garnered plenty of praise and been nominated for several awards including a Juno Award, a Summer Solstice Indigenous Music Award and the Edmonton Music prize.
LaGrande says the music on kâkîsimo, which includes traditional chanting and Cree syllabary, is intended to provide comfort and healing from challenges and hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was very intentional with the tone,” she says. “Because it was written when people were going through tough times. I want people to feel comfort and as if they’re in what we call as wepisowin (a traditional Indigenous baby swing). I wanted that tone of feeling comforted. It runs right through the album.”
But Saturday’s performance won’t be entirely made up of renditions from kâkîsimo, with LaGrande planning to perform from her debut release, ISKO, too.
“It’s a night of Cree immersion. The first set is going to be the new album and the second set is a bit sexier. I’ll pull out the first album that’s a bit more contemporary, with a full band and partially performed in Cree.”