Anishinaabe producer Ziibiwan makes music at the cutting edge of dance but uses it to share tradition and convey the struggles of Canada's Indigenous population. Of course, that doesn't mean the music can't slap either, as it does on Ziibiwan's new track "Winter's Child." Monotone but urgent raps by Saskatoon artist Wellspoke transition to a mournful sample of Buffy Saint-Marie's "Winter Boy" over the piece's six minutes, creating a song that's a statement, an elegy, and a moody club banger. Who said modern rap production isn't expressive? Stream "Winter's Child" below and read on for an interview with Ziibiwan.
What's the message behind the song? How did it come together?
The overall message is about how powerful and resilient Indigenous women are but yet how vulnerable they are as well. It's a very saddening discussion to have but it's inescapable because we hear about it all the time as Indigenous people. Wellspoke brought an intimate level of realness to the song that just makes it so much more meaningful. He gave it duality in a discussion that continues to happen today around the well-being of Indigenous women, young girls, and two-spirited people.
What's the significance of sampling this specific Buffy Sainte-Marie song? How'd you land upon it in the first place?
Buffy is and forever will be one of the greatest folk artists of all time and I wanted to work with a song from a hero who comes from our community. Indigenous musicians are very underrepresented in the industry so there is a deep feeling of pride when you feel like you've complimented their work. I personally really love this song, I found this track while I was looking through her earlier discography. It really resonated with me; it was beautiful poetry. Hearing those guitar notes arise after the subject matter of her CBC interview just took it somewhere completely unexpected when I imagined the song. The interview comes from CBC's The National episode when Buffy was doing press for her latest album Power in the Blood.
What do you think is the artistic value of a good sample, overall?
Sampling is like, a crazy idea out of nostalgia that is now a conventional technique in music production. The right sample can really amplify the mood of a song and good music is timeless so it's great. There's lots of value when you sample a song right that doesn't degrade the original. A good sample also allows us to pay homage to the pioneers, our ancestors, and give a song some new life to a younger generation, like when Kanye West sampled Nina Simone for "Blood on the Leaves."
Phil is a Noisey Canada staff writer. He's on Twitter.