Marginalized Music

Album Covers of Kimmortal, Rae Spoon, Riit, and Tegan & Sara. (Collage by Jade Vandergrift)
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CBC Music’s Top 19 Canadian Albums of 2019 came out this December. Four of the featured groups are composed of marginalized musicians who have made their own way without the typical mainstream support: Riit, Rae Spoon, Kimmortal, and Tegan & Sara.

Musicians make almost all their revenue from being on tour and performing shows, after having usually spent more of their own money recording and marketing their albums. These 2019 releases break musical barriers and criss-cross genres and their voices deserve to be heard far and wide across the country.

Riit hails from Panniqtuq, Nunavut, which she calls “the land that never melts” in her bio. Her debut album, ataataga, was released in 2019. She sings in Inuktituk and incorporates music from fellow Northern artists. CBC wrote that “Riit graciously extends the shared heartbeat of her people through throat singing.” Currently, she doesn’t have any shows booked for 2020, but keep your ears open for new music from her as she advances her career.

Rae Spoon graces us from Treaty 7/Calgary and released an album titled Mental Health in September this year. The CBC review wrote that their album “rocks and pulses, hisses and drones, and thrums with love and acceptance, particularly for all the queer, transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming folks struggling to cope with and navigate our capitalist society’s complex and unnerving healthcare system.” They most recently performed a show at Market Collective in Calgary on December 15. Look out for a potential tour in 2020 that brings Spoon and their show to the island.

Kimmortal is a Filipinx-Canadian musician and visual arts artist based out of Vancouver. She was perfecting her latest album, X Marks the Swirl, for five years before its release this year. Its official genre is Alternative Rap, but she brings several genres together (hip-hop, soul, spoken word, and pop) to shed light on issues around racism, colonialism, queerness, and misogyny. She is making herself heard and refuses to be silenced. Her music opens new doors for other marginalized musicians to walk through.

Many are familiar with the more mainstream duo, Tegan and Sara. The twin sisters from Calgary paved some of the way for these upcoming artists, and swam against the mainstream current with much difficulty for nearly 15 years. They released their first album in 1999 and had a handful of releases until their most “anthemically queer” album, as described by the CBC review, dropped in 2016—Love You to Death. They toured across the UK and North America in the fall of 2019 after their latest album Hey, I’m Just Like You was released in September.

Each year there is more space being made for marginalized musicians in the music scene. 2019 saw great improvement compared even to 2018, and Canadians can look forward to these artists and more in the new year.