Before his execution, Louis Riel left behind this prophecy; “My people will sleep for 100 years, but when they awake, it will be the artists that give them their spirit back.” Turns out he was right, as directors PJ Marcellion and Hermon Farahi prove in When We Awake, a documentary about Indigenous musicians who are bringing their culture’s music into the era of iTunes and Spotify. This documentary kind of serves as the perfect follow-up to Rumble, another documentary about the impact of Native culture on modern music. These films are similar, yet they are different. Rumble focused on Indigenous musicians of yesteryear who changed the face of Jazz and rock music.
When We Awake is about Indigenous musicians of today who are elevating their music to chart topping levels. It’s a story about Tanya Tagaq, a Juno Award winning singer whose topping the charts with her throat singing. It’s a story about Rex Smallboy, who led War Party, aboriginal equivalent to Public Enemy. It about the Jerry Cans, a folk music group who sings in Inuktitut so their children can stay close to their culture. And you bet it’s about A Tribe Called Red, whose blend of First Nations music and techno have made them international sensation. These are just a few of many musicians the film focuses on.