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Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Everywhere But Here and Now | “Here and Now” by Aysanabee

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November 1 marks the beginning of National Native American Heritage Month, an annual celebration of the peoples indigenous to the land we call home. To mark this celebration, Impact 89FM wants to highlight some of the many indigenous artists from across the continent. 

Evan Pang, better known by his stage name, Aysanabee, is a singer of Oji-Cree, Sucker Clan of the Sandy Lake First Nation heritage. His surname of Pang was given to him by his mother, as she wanted him to grow up without the negative stereotypes being indigenous can carry. He has since reclaimed his family name as his stage name. Aysanabee had been working on music as a hobby but got his big break when he was signed to Ishkōdé Records following his video submission to the International Indigenous Music Summit in 2020. The founders of Ishkōdé Records, Métis singer-songwriter Amanda Rheaume and Anishinaabekwe musician ShoShona Kish of the band Digging Roots, were the organizers of the summit and were blown away by Aysanabee’s submission. 

Aysanabee’s debut album, Watin, came out in Nov. 2022, having been preceded by three singles, including “Nomads,” which made Aysanabee the first Indigenous artist to chart at #1 on any Canadian chart. The album, which is named after his grandfather, features nine snippets of Watin retelling his time in a residential school, where he was forced to become “Walter.” His grandfather’s calls inspired Aysanabee’s songwriting, as he retells the story his father shared of having his identity quite literally forcefully removed from him. An example of this is on the track “Seeseepano,” where Aysanabee recounts the story of his father being taken from his family to live at the residential school. 

Watin quickly resonated with the public, as interest in the stories of survivors of the Canadian indigenous residential school system was picking up alongside the reporting of mass graves on the sites of residential schools. The stories found in the album, alongside Aysanabee’s vocal retelling of the stories, launched the album, and Aysanabee by proxy, into the global consciousness. He was a performer at the 2023 Juno Awards, where he was also shortlisted for the Contemporary Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year, received sixth best song of 2022 for “Nomad,” received seventh best album of 2022 for Watin,  was shortlisted for the 2023 Polaris Music Prize and performed at SXSW 2023. He set an incredibly high bar, and the EP, Here and Now, would step up to the challenge. 

Here and Now is a “breakup album” about love and loss. It marks a transition from the heavy storytelling of Watin, while still telling the story of Aysanabee. The title track opens with a rolling drum beat, a shaker and Aysanabee’s soulful voice. Once the chorus hits, a piano joins the melody and a choir backs up the big moments of that chorus. The simple layers of the song allow for Aysanabee’s voice and the lyrics to take up the forefront of the sonic space on the track. 

One million lives and we’re livin’ here /

And I know you tried while I disappeared.

Even though the album is a breakup project, you can still feel traces of Watin on the EP. This one line from the song reveals a residue from the residential school system that stains the lives of the present generation. There are people who were not only forcibly removed from their loved ones and stripped of their culture but didn’t make it out of the schools alive. As a society, we still have so much work to do in order to fully reconcile with the atrocities committed to Indigenous peoples, but I can safely say that through the work of artists like Aysanabee, these stories will not only be preserved but will be heard by people thousands of miles away.

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About the Contributor
Ashe Burr, Writer
Ashe is a second year student majoring in both professional and public writing and linguistics. The resident international music aficionado at the station, they can be found constantly seeking out new music from all corners of the globe. When not looking through music, they can be found with the Spartan Marching Band Color Guard and State of Art Winterguard. "Might be bleeding, but don't you mind, I'll be fine." - Cornelia Jakobs

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