There's something innocuous about the roots or "traditional" music genre. The name implies conservatism, or a kind of safety, but on Friday afternoon (February 3) at Ottawa's Elmdale Tavern, amidst the commotion of people drinking beers and sucking back oysters, Twin Flames did an excellent job subverting those expectations, questioning just whose traditions or roots are really being represented in those styles of music.
Centring on the songs of Jaaji, an Inuk/Mohawk vocalist and guitarist from Nunavik, and Chelsey June, an Algonquin/Cree Métis vocalist and multi-instrumentalist from Ottawa, Twin Flames wowed the audience with their powerful songwriting. The strength of their set and their music in general comes from their ability to wrap Indigenous stories in traditional styles, often incorporating both Western and Indigenous instruments in their songs. Fiddle player Ursula Schultz couldn't help but smile after the crowd cheered for every one of her solos.
The rousing "Native By Nature" was introduced with the cutting acknowledgement that "many people have tried to wipe us out," and June explained that the National Aboriginal Countdown-topping "Porchlight" was written as a tribute to Canada's many missing and murdered Indigenous women. Those might not be the kinds of songs people expect when they hear the word "traditional," but they're the songs we need to hear.