by Petra Chase
If you’re familiar with the poetry scene in “Vancouver” (unceded Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh territory), you probably know Tawahum for their showpiece spoken word performances about growth, resistance, and persistence. As of today, with the release of their first single, they can add hip-hop to their impressive collection of creative work. In “Shedding”, the Lutselk’e Dene and Plains Cree poet and land defender raps about loving the land and the land’s reciprocal love.
It’s an impressive debut track: The lyrics are densely and instinctually poetic, vocals flow and distort in tune to the stream-of-consciousness style verses, and the upbeat, catchy rhythm will have you hooked. The atmospheric guitar beats were produced by Amach Beats, and recording and mixing was done by Lovelion.
In an exclusive interview with Attuned, Tawahum shared his inspiration for the song: “I wrote [Shedding] in 2018 after a music festival that’s land protector-based and very grassroots called Koksilah. That took place at the providence farm in Duncan on Vancouver Island. It used to be a residential school, which is a really strange space to have a music festival but it was also incredible healing work that they’re doing on that land. I wrote it literally on the ferry back from that music festival with the idea of what we can do to heal the land, and ourselves moving forward, and how to listen to the land.”
As leaves fall and autumn’s color scheme sets in, Tawahum inspires you to notice how nature expresses itself using fiery imagery: “See the fields opening up from the forest/ The orange and red leaves shed/ His aggression and indifference for devotion and deliverance.”
“When editing, I definitely drew a lot of inspiration from Braiding Sweetgrass, which is a book by Robin Wall Kimmerer that talks a lot about not just us loving the land but the land loving us too,” they shared.
Their second single, “Connect 2 Spirit” is set to launch by the end of November. With an EP planned for next Spring, and a full album in the works to follow, they revealed “It’s going to stay very true to the spoken word poetry aspect that I come from.” He cites rappers who come from a similar poetry background as inspirations: Kimmortal, R.A.P. Ferrera, and Chance the Rapper. When asked about the process of writing music compared to poetry, he responded, “poetry and spoken word are how I’ve come to music. It’s like reading poetry with a beat in the background, doing my spoken word and letting my singing voice come out, to what I’m working on now, which is hip-hop and rap.”
Last year, Tawahum faced incarceration for his land protection work, unjustly criminalized by the Canadian legal system for protesting against the Trans Mountain pipeline. His unbridled resistance against colonial corruption is a force to be reckoned with. “Shedding” marks the start of a promising era of rapping resistance.