ListN Up: Olivia Shortt (March 12, 2021)

ListN Up is a series of weekly artist-curated playlists. Born from a desire to keep artists sharing and connected during times of isolation, ListN Up offers an intimate sonic portrait of contemporary artists by showcasing the diverse and stylistically varied music that influences their creative practice. 

(They/Them: Anishinaabe, Nipissing First Nation) Olivia Shortt is a Tkarón:to-based trans-disciplinary performing artist. They are a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, noisemaker, improviser, composer, sound designer, curator, administrator, and producer. Highlights include their Lincoln Center (NYC) debut performing with the International Contemporary Ensemble, their film debut performing in Atom Egoyan’s 2019 film ‘Guest of Honour’, as well as recording an album two kilometres underground in the SnoLAB (Neutrino Lab in Sudbury, Canada) and recent commissions include Long Beach Opera (Songbook 2020), the JACK Quartet (JACK Studio) and Arraymusic (Toronto, 2022). Most recently, they were awarded and named one of the 2020 Buddies in Bad Times’ Emerging Queer Artists and was featured in the Musicworks Magazine Winter 2020 edition.

Olivia Shortt indishnakaaz North Bay indongenbaa Nipissing. My name is Olivia Shortt and I currently live on Treaty 13 territory, in Tkaronto, which is the Mohawk name for Toronto in what is currently known as Canada. This playlist is all about the relationships that I’ve built up in my life as an artist, a curator, and a person. Some of the artists on this list I know personally, some of them I’ve been lucky enough to have presented as a curator and some of them I don’t know at all but I just love their music and wanted to share that with you.

‘All my relations’ is an expression that I’ve heard time and time again and again among my friends from across Turtle Island. It’s a reminder of who we are and the relationships that we have with family, the people around us and the world around us. I love it so much because it’s a reminder of our responsibility to each other and the world we live in. I find that my work is very much driven by this concept and with this playlist not only did I want to share my love of the music of these artists, and the variety of styles that Indigenous peoples are creating around the world, but I also wanted to share the love that I have for each and every one of these artists.

“Eso Que Tu Haces” by Lido Pimienta

Lido is one of my favourite musicians ever. Not only a wonderful artist, but Lido Pimienta is probably one of the funniest on-stage personalities. In 2019, she did a show in Toronto at The Music Gallery where in between pieces, she started reading each member of her band’s bios while giving them side-eye and hyping every single person on that stage up. There is so much love and joy in her music. I would recommend listening to literally any piece of music she’s made or collaborated on.

“Mehcinut from Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa by Jeremy Dutcher

I met Jeremy Dutcher first as a member of The Element Choir when we were doing a stripped-down and re-imagined version of Handel’s Messiah where Jeremy was singing in Wolastoqey wearing a purple cumberbund and purple heels. Jeremy is a really talented artist whose win of the Polaris Prize and JUNO for their album entirely sung in Wolastoqey (this track is from that album) has made visible to the public all of their incredible work in the language reclamation of the Wolastoqiyik. Listen to the entire album, it’s so good.

For Zitkála-Šá – Laura Ortman by Raven Chacon, performed by Laura Ortman

Raven and I first met in early 2019 as I opened for him on the last night of a mini-festival presented in Toronto of his music (with him performing on the last night). Since then, Raven has written a solo work for me as part of his series of works ‘For Zitkála-Šá,’ has mentored me on a new work through the Canadian New Music Network, and has inspired me to dream bigger and expand my viewpoint on what “art” looks like in different contexts. I saw this performance by Laura Ortman on the second night of the mini-festival and loved the timbres that the tree branch and the bass amp created while she played this work.

“Dodo, mon tout petit” from Louis Riel by Ian Cusson, performed by Simone Osborne and the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra (Johannes Debus, conductor)

What I love about Ian is the aura of joy that exists around him as he walks into any space. You can hear in Ian’s writing that not only is he a pianist, but he also worked as the music director of a church for a long time, so he really understands how the voice moves in and out of textures and different timbres. This aria is a really interesting work as it is a new addition to the opera written by Harry Somers about Métis leader Louis Riel. There were a lot of issues with this opera when it was remounted in 2017 (the opera was written and composed by non-Indigenous people about Indigenous people), the largest of them being that the aria that Ian’s work replaced used a song from the Nisga’a (that their community never gave permission to be used in the first place).

“Aorta” by Tanya Tagaq

I have loved Tanya Tagaq’s music for years. I was first introduced to her when I was in rehearsals with The Element Choir in Toronto (an improvising choir led by Christine Duncan) as we performed with Tanya during the Polaris Prize Music Awards (which she won in 2014!). I love the beauty behind her music and how she has become an icon and leader in the arts. I was lucky enough to be present in the studio as part of The Element Choir for this album and will never forget the glow Tanya would have on her face after hearing every take.

“Little Star” by iskwē

This is a beautiful song by one of my favourite artists that was written as a direct response to media reports during the trials of Gerald Stanley and Raymond Cormier, the men who murdered Colten Bouchie and Tina Fontaine.


“Ersarissumik” by Uyarakq

I was introduced to Uyarakq’s music through my friend Heli as I’ll be presenting Heli’s band Nannaam at The Music Gallery. Heli and Uyarakq (AKA Aqqalu Berthelsen) are in a duo called Nannaam featuring upbeat pop songs in Sámi. I love music that has a playfulness and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Uyarakq’s own music has a lightness and joy that surprises me every time I listen to it.

“Kuluk – Summer Luv” by Silla and Rise

As a curator at The Music Gallery (Toronto), I’ve been able to bring in some of my favourite artists to the stage (virtually and in-person). An upcoming concert on March 20th featuring Indigenous artists from circumpolar regions includes Silla and Rise (Inuit) originally from Nunavut and Nannaam, Heli Huovinen from Finland, and Aqqalu Berthelsen AKA Uyarakq from Greenland.

“You’ve Got to Run (Spirit of the Wind)” by Buffy Sainte-Marie with Tanya Tagaq

Buffy is an actual trailblazer in the Indigenous arts world. At 80 years old, she was one of the first very prominent women performing across Turtle Island and gaining recognition for her music. I am reminded that there were times when Indigenous people couldn’t congregate. When I think of the past and all of my ancestors who fought, worked hard, and persevered so that their future grandchildren could create art in safer spaces, I am grateful to them. Buffy is very much one of the reasons so many younger Indigenous artists have been able to be successful in a world built on white supremacy. She’s the original icon.


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