Over the years many Indigenous languages and cultural practices have been lost and others are fading. Now, a Saskatchewan producer is working hard to prevent further loss by preserving all types of Indigenous music.
George Parker is a Métis music producer from the Saskatchewan hamlet of Cando, located 48 kilometres south of North Battleford. He is CEO and co-founder of the website and app Indigenous Cloud, a music platform and archival system.
Parker's career spans over three decades and he has produced over 150 Indigenous albums. Now the producer is using his extensive collection and expertise to archive Indigenous music from all over North America.
"We've seen so many good artists and albums come out over the years and then they just kind of disappear. They have their little bit of a run for a year or two, and they just kind of go off the charts," Parker said.
WATCH | Saskatchewan music producer is working hard to preserve Indigenous music:
Over the past three years, Parker has communicated with artists and other record labels in an effort to uncover older Indigenous music.
"You know, stuff you can't get, stuff that was on cassette, stuff that was on records. To bring it all back to life and preserve it. Otherwise it's lost in somebody's basement. It's in somebody's desk drawer and nobody would ever hear it again."
Artists on Indigenous Cloud include musicians like Manitoba Cree singer Ernest Monias, blues rock band Blackstone and Saskatchewan Cree singer Wanita Bird. The genres on the site include pow pow, rock, flute, peyote and traditional music from various nations and reserves.
Parker says it's a huge passion of his to preserve Indigenous languages and culture.
"Every culture and individual language group ... they have their own unique type of music ... they have their own special songs," he says. "There's just such a variety that's out there."
Parker says he hopes Indigenous Cloud will be a home for all this music.
Indigenous Cloud works closely with Parker's label Parker Entertainment to produce new Indigenous music. He is currently in the process of building a new studio at his home in Cando. He expects it to be operational by the end of 2021.
Black Rain, a Saskatchewan band from the Ahtahkakoop Cree First Nation, is one of the many Indigenous rock groups featured on the website and app. The group says Saskatchewan is highly represented on Indigenous Cloud.
"It's cool seeing all those bands, especially the ones that are our friends and stuff too. We all get along really good," said Jamie Peekeekoot, drummer and singer for Black Rain.
The band is signed to the Parker Entertainment label and is currently working on its fifth album. The group began to perform together in the mid-1990s, when they were in their mid-teens.
Parker says his ultimate goal is for Indigenous Cloud to be a widely used streaming service that focuses on Indigenous artists and shares profits with them. He says other streaming platforms like Apple Music and Spotify don't do that. Black Rain agrees.
"It is tougher, which is where I'm really thankful for George. [Indigenous Cloud] is direct, it's like straight there as opposed to Spotify," said Peekeekoot.
All in the family
Indigenous Cloud is a family affair. Parker's son Jeff is the president of the company and runs their head office in Calgary. Parkers' other son Wyatt does much of the graphic design work for the company.
The veteran music producer says he's incredibly proud that his passion for Indigenous music is shared by his sons, and hopes Indigenous Cloud turns into full-time work for all of them.
But he first and foremost wants the website to bring joy to Indigenous people, especially in the wake of the findings of hundreds of unmarked graves at residential school sites across Canada.
"I hope that people can come on and enjoy some music — just to soothe them and help them heal. The last few months ... the stories coming out ... It's just been kind of unbelievable," said Parker.
"I'm just here to hopefully give a little bit of pleasure. Just to get a break from it. In the news cycle it's constantly running, so hopefully people come here and have a listen and enjoy."
Indigenous Cloud just completed a Kickstarter campaign to upgrade the site for both the featured artists and the users. They surpassed their goal of $10,000.