Discovering Identity Through Music: Aysanabee’s Journey

Asynabee Indigenous artist musician

Aysanabee is a multi-talented artist based in Toronto who is a singer-songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. He hails from the Sandy Lake First Nation, which is a remote fly-in community in the far reaches of Northwestern Ontario.

Aysanabee began creating music under his mother’s maiden name during the pandemic, where he found the stillness allowed him to slow down and create music that directly represents himself as an artist.


His debut album, Watin (2022), named after his grandfather, features ten tracks and nine interludes that showcase his voice along with the voice of his grandfather. The album is part of music and journalism, as well as artistry and expression.

“Watin actually started out as a series of conversations between myself and my grandfather,” says Aysanabee.

In just one year, Aysanabee performed nearly 100 shows on major stages and festivals across the country and around the world, including Ottawa Bluesfest, Montreal Jazzfest, Mariposa, Riverfest, Summerfolk, Mission Folk, Alianait, Wake the Giant, and many more.

“We spent the first year of the pandemic talking about things we’ve never spoken about, his life on the trapline on Sandy Lake First Nation, falling in love, his life in residential school, and then leaving everything behind. We never spoke of it until now. Even though we were over 1,000 kilometres apart, it was probably the closest we’ve ever been.”

CBC Music named Watin one of the 22 best Canadian albums of 2022, and “Nomads” as one of the ten best Canadian songs of the year.

Aysanabee was nominated for the Indigenous Contemporary Artist of the Year Juno Award for Watin at the 2023 Juno Awards and performed “We Were Here (It’s in My Blood)” backed by the Northern Cree traditional Indigenous dance group.

He also received praise for his performance outfit, a long jacket designed by Travis Shilling with feathers representing the graves of Canadian Indigenous residential school children.

Explore more stories of independent musicians on our Blog

“We Were Here (It’s in My Blood)”

The song’s lyrics evoke memories of grandfather’s stories of Aysanabee trapped on the land, and the intergenerational trauma that resulted from his time in school, where Indigenous children were forcibly taken from their families and forced to assimilate into mainstream Canadian culture.

Despite these difficult memories, the song is a testament to the resilience of Indigenous peoples and their connection to the land, and it serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving Indigenous cultures and traditions.

In addition to its powerful message, the song is also musically impressive, featuring soaring vocals, mournful saxophone, and pulse-quickening fingerpicking that blends together in a hypnotic and melodic way.

“We Were Here” is a powerful tribute to Aysanabee’s heritage and a testament to the enduring strength and resilience of Indigenous peoples in Canada and beyond. It is a must-listen for anyone interested in exploring the rich history and culture of Indigenous peoples in North America.

If you’re looking for a musician, teacher, or mentor to improve your technique and music, visit our directory.

And if you’re already a musician and want to achieve greater digital presence, join our community or check out our Digital Marketing Services