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Interview: Raven Kanatakta from ‘Digging Roots’

digging roots

Why do so many people commit their lives to making music and sharing their work with the people around them, even the world? Canadian collective Digging Roots are currently touring around Australia, sharing their roots & blues music to highlight indigenous issues and support Australian indigenous communities.  We had a lovely chat with the hubby of the husband and wife duo Raven Kantakta about spreading messages of love and positive change, the deliciousness of maple syrup, touring with kids, and the powerful language of music.

How are you dealing with the Aussie heat at the moment?

I was speaking with my dad last week and he said it was minus 45 back home and now I’m in plus 40! (laughs) So it’s a pretty big change!

Yeah for sure! Still on the topic of Canada, is it true Canadians put maple syrup on everything?

Yeah, pretty much! You put it on your pancakes and sometimes people put it in their expressos. Maple syrup is a healthier alternative and you can get different strengths of it. Coming straight from a tree it’s not super processed, it’s just boiled down to make it thicker.

What inspired you to follow a career in roots and blues music?

I picked up music from the people around in my community and there was nothing else I ever wanted to do except play music and as I got older I wanted to have a go making a living out of it.

What were the reactions from your close friends and family when you said you wanted to make a living out of playing music?

My family have been super supportive. It was a little bit rough on my res [home reservation] I would say. Kind of like some of the indigenous communities in Australia. Some of the traits from Australia to Canada in that respect. For me music was an opportunity to focus my attention on something that really built up my personal well-being and made me excited to pursue. Music in that way was a bit of medicine.

Do you feel the Australian Government could learn a lot about about Indigenous relations in Canada?

Yeah I think so because the parallels are so similar. I think it goes back to the history of colonisation. I think one of the problems when colonisation happens is that people who are colonised are not given the same opportunities. Our single Highway 17 is about the 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous Canadian women. By writing a song we were trying to raise the issue and make it public in Canada which we did. We had great success.

It seems Highway 17 has made quite an impact in Canada, highlighting the issue of violence against women. Do you think music is a great way to communicate with people and maybe even make change?

Yeah! We write about where we come from so there are a lot of roots in our music that go back to our community. We’re always traveling the world and there’s always something new to discover. Wherever we go, we’re singing about social change and trying to raise consciousness to a level where we can all communicate with each other. We’re also trying to give a voice to equal rights for women through our music. We sing love songs, songs about movement and change, and we pair up our music with dancing as well. We have this power drum we use to get people to dance together. People are moving together, dancing together, singing as one voice and it really promotes the idea of community. This is what I want to spread wherever we go. Music is all about singing, dancing, and having a good time together.

That’s really beautiful! What is it like touring with your wife on the road?

We jammed yesterday for five hours straight. My wife and I have this ongoing discussion where I might write something and pass it on to her to look at. We work great together and have a lot of fun. A lot of our friends don’t get to travel with their partners and it’s hard on them because they’re apart a lot of the time. We bring our kids with us on tour too. It’s hard to take them everywhere, but the benefits far outweigh everything else. Our kids get some amazing education being away from home.

Yeah I’m sure they see some things they wouldn’t be exposed to at home. Plus they get to be with mum and dad, which is what all kids want!

Yeah, and it gives me an opportunity as a parent to lead by example as well. We’re traveling around and they get to see our work. Our kids are either hanging backstage or even onstage with us. Our oldest son is one of the drummers in the group. It was a natural progression for him to make it to the stage instead of a lawyer (laughs).

Your music video for single I’ve Got It Bad is very entertaining! What is it inspired by?

(Laughs) We were working with an amazing cinematographer and he’s the husband in it. The wife is also our friend and an amazing producer. We traveled down to the bottom of Florida. It was really cold in Canada at the time so this was the opposite, summery and warm. I don’t think we’ve written many love songs so our album ‘For the Light’ was letting that light come in for love songs. And not just love songs for another person. Highway 17 is a love song for a type of social change. I’ve Got it Bad is about infatuation. (It’s about) the way life is sometimes, you know what I mean? There’s so many corners of love that can be explored. We wanted to make something fun and not serious.


What’s next for you guys once you wrap up your Australian Tour?

We’re going to go back home and probably sleep for about a week (laughs). We’ve been going so strong so we’re going to be needing a break after this. And then we’re going to go straight into recording an album. We’re going to New Orleans as well, Louisiana…We’re always traveling, writing songs, and I just want to keep doing that. If we’re not traveling we’re home recording.

I bet the kids are ready to rest and recover too?

Yeah! We went out last night and for the first time I was jamming with both my sons, on a stage that wasn’t our house. My oldest was playing bass, my youngest was on the drums, and I was playing guitar and singing. It was like a power Dad moment for me! They were playing in front of a little crowd. The music is flowing through all our fingers and it’s such a good thing. When musicians play music it lights up certain places of the brain that don’t normally get lit up. I don’t feel myself if I don’t play music.

That’s really nice, it sounds like music really brings your family together!

Yeah! When we’re playing music it’s like a language. Like learning french together, we are communicating with each other through music. When you’re playing music you have all these people dancing or singing with you. There’s a real personal exchange that happens and when you’re with really good hearted people; everything magnifies. We become family. That’s one of the powerful things about music, it’s a tool for community.


Digging Roots Australian Tour Dates

Mon 23 FEB – FRI 26 FEB
Cross-cultural Workshops, Yirrkala Arnhem Land, NT

Arnhem Club, Nhulunbuy, NT

Klub Koori, Sydney

Bellingen Memorial Hall, Bellingen, NSW

Newtown Social Club, Sydney

Brunswick Music Festival, Melbourne

Bluesfest, Byron Bay

Get Tickets HERE